The Friday in F1 Mexico GP was back to normalcy as Pirelli brought a new compound to test and teams got more track time being a normal weekend.
It was mostly a smooth run on Friday in F1 Mexico GP where the grip levels played a role with drivers sliding but it wasn’t too harmful. The one lap pace showed a tight grid but Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led the way comfortably in the front of the pack.
The Dutchman felt good but is wary of the degradation on the long run. His teammate was off him but not too far away. Considering the tight field, he is behind few cars with McLaren’s Lando Norris and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in the mix.
The Monegasque reckons McLaren to be ahead of them so far which will be the aim to beat. Their teammates did not have a superb run where Oscar Piastri spent time learning the circuit, while Carlos Sainz had his soft tyres overheating quickly.
In the mix, Mercedes seemed a bit off pace with the car sliding a lot in the high speed section. This made it tougher to extract much on one lap and they will have to improve their one lap pace with Lewis Hamilton facing clear difference from Austin.
The two sessions saw surprise entrants too as Williams’ Alexander Albon was second in FP1. He was outside Top 10 in FP2 but completed his one lap run way early than others. Also, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas was fourth in FP2 despite missing FP1.
Verstappen: “I mean of course we look competitive so that’s good, but there are always a few things to still improve. But overall, I think it was a positive start to the weekend, probably a little bit better than I expected. But you can see the track is very slippery, tyres are very difficult to manage as well in the long run, so there are still a few things that I think we can work on. I mean McLaren have been close already for a few races now, so for me there is no surprise there. Tomorrow is going to be incredibly competitive over one lap. The race pace again is different story.”
Norris: “Is that the challenge, within one and a half tenths? Many drivers were within three tenths! I think it was a good Friday. A good start to the weekend anyway. It’s close, so it seems it could swing very quickly either way. I did a very good lap, maybe too good for this early in the weekend! We’ll continue to try to improve, but it’s a good start. Not a lot [we could change]. We started the weekend off well. I think we generally always start weekends off well. I think we always have a good idea of where to put the car to begin with, and it’s not far off normally where we end the weekend. There’s not a lot to gain through the weekends. There’s always little things and those little things add up. There’s still stuff to improve, also from my driving, little things here and there, but to challenge the Red Bull I think is going to be tough around here.”
Leclerc: “Yeah, we still have a lot of work to do as the McLaren seems to be extremely strong, obviously the Red Bull and Max seem to be very strong. The Mercedes seem to be a bit difficult to read into now, but focusing on ourselves, we know the areas we need to work on and hopefully that will help us to do a step forward for tomorrow. It will be a huge surprise if we do pole position tomorrow but never say never. It’s a tricky track, it’s difficult to put the lap together but I feel this weekend we are a bit too far away.”
Hamilton: “Not that great. Dodgy, not dodgy, but not the greatest. A bit of a struggle in the car today. I mean the car is night and day different compared to last week. And yeah, I don’t know what to say, you just never know what you’re going to get with this one. Some days she’s great and some days she’s not. I think it’s hard to extract the lap, I think there is definitely performance there. It’s just hard to extract it and it’s quite peaky this weekend with the aero map or whatever it might be. So, we are going to work on it overnight but definitely it wasn’t a fun day compared to FP1 in Austin. We are a bit off but hopefully overnight we can find something and tomorrow the car will be better to drive. I’m not sure. Again, we never know what to expect with this car, maybe we make the changes, and we’ll pick that pace up. I think there was definitely some performance in there to be closer, maybe in the top three. But we’ve got to figure out how to make it easier for us to extract that performance, so that’s what we’ll be working on tonight.”
Albon: “I don’t think we were slow in the FP2, but we obviously had a good run in the first session. We were better than expected but I think we just hit the ground running and optimised the window from the first lap, whereas other teams potentially took a bit longer to get up to speed. We were quick on the Test tyre but my lap on the Softs wasn’t very good. This is a circuit that doesn’t feel great for anyone with the low downforce; you feel like you’re sliding around a lot, however comparing year on year, it’s a big step, so let’s see how we go tomorrow. I don’t think we’re top five or top 10 but I do think we’ll be in a position to fight for Q3 tomorrow.”
Bottas: “I am pleased with how today went: thankfully, we found the issue that affected our car during FP1, and we were able to address it and quickly solve it between the sessions; I would like to thank our mechanics for the hard work put in to get the car back on track. Of course, it was a shame for Théo to miss such an important outing, but I am positive he’ll be back in the car soon. Overall, FP2 has been a clean session, which is important as it was the only practice of the day for me. I got a good number of laps under my belt, and the feeling with the car was generally pretty good. Still, it is only Friday: now our focus will go onto further improving both the setup and my confidence with the track, to fine-tune our car and place ourselves in comfortable positions ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying.”
Much like Albon and Bottas, the Top 10 got AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo too who showed good pace and seems confident to make it in Q3. His teammate Yuki Tsunoda will start last after taking power unit elements which is why he focused on long run pace.
Also, Alpine looked to be a good shape especially for Esteban Ocon who was also inside the Top 10 and felt good in the car. Aston Martin, meanwhile, were behind again but they did not do a soft tyre run after a half spin for Fernando Alonso.
They were forced to undertake long run plan while Lance Stroll had a wheel stuck which hampered his session. Haas got more time with their new package but one lap time side, they were a bit behind amid the pack of F1 rookies.
While Theo Pourchaire was unlucky to not get a proper run in the Alfa Romeo, the likes of Haas’ Oliver Bearman, AlphaTauri’s Isack Hadjar, Mercedes’ Frederik Vesti and Alpine’s Jack Doohan got plenty of laps in a trouble-free run.
Ricciardo: “Since the race in Austin, I’ve been hungry to keep going and get back in the car. After last week’s race, we discovered some things that made me want to prove that we have pace. Today was a very good day. I enjoy this place, and the car was solid. From the get-go, I was certainly comfortable, and because it isn’t a Sprint weekend, we have more time to try some things. We continued to chip away and made good progress with our setup, and we look like we’re in a good place, so I’m confident we can carry this performance into tomorrow. The field is close, and you never know what other teams are doing exactly, but I know what I felt in the car today was good, and I believe it’s a top 10 car tomorrow.”
Ocon: “It was a very good Friday for us here at the Autódromo. We got through a very busy programme without issues and made good progress between the sessions. We are, of course, keeping our heads down, debriefing as a team, and focusing on how to best approach Qualifying tomorrow. We’ll be working hard overnight to be in the best position to try and reach Q3 and put ourselves in a strong position ahead of Sunday’s race. I feel good in the car, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Alonso: “Today we focused a lot on race pace and high fuel running. It’s difficult to read too much into the times, but the set up felt good and we will continue to optimise the AMR23 in Free Practice 3 tomorrow.”
Hulkenberg: “It was a challenging day. Obviously, coming to Mexico each year we have the same challenge with the thin air, it has some pretty significant side effects. It didn’t feel too good today and the timesheets also don’t look too good so there’s some homework for us to do to find some performance overnight. We’ve had two solid sessions of work, progress, and exploring things, so that was definitely a positive.”
Vesti: “This is a very special weekend for me, it’s a dream come true and I’m very grateful to the team for the opportunity. Since I’ve joined the team’s junior programme, there’s been a lot of work going into getting the right results and lots of preparations in the simulator to prepare me for today. It was a good session for us overall, we managed to get some useful information from the long run stints and understand the prototype tyres and degradation at this track. I’ve never raced here before and it’s definitely a difficult track with low grip, which you can also really feel in the car. So, lots of learnings for me and the team today in this one-hour long practice session and hopefully good preparations for decent results on Sunday. And I can’t wait to be back in Abu Dhabi and sit in the car for the team again.”
Doohan: “It was a really good session and I felt very comfortable in the car right from my first lap. I was glad to contribute to the team’s programme, which, on my side, focused on a couple of future test items. It was important to get through the session without any issues and tick all the boxes on our run list, which we were able to achieve trouble-free. I’ve been testing throughout the year in the 2021 car, so I definitely felt ready for today and it meant we could be right on it from the start. I’m very grateful to the team for the opportunity and for their trust and support both in the build-up ahead of the day and during the session itself. I’m now looking forward to seeing how the rest of the weekend unfolds for the team and offering my support where I can.”
Hadjar: “It’s the best day of my life! My first ever time in an F1 car was incredible, so I’m happy. There was so much going on with the procedures and traffic that it was overwhelming at first. It was tough, but I got into a rhythm quite quickly, and my confidence grew. During my first runs, I was struggling to get a lap without traffic, but in the last run, the race pace was quite good and consistent, and I could manage the soft compound for a few laps. It was a really good experience, and now I can’t wait to be back in the car.”
Bearman: “My first goal was to have a clean session and we did that, so that was the main thing. Secondly, I got up to speed quite fast, I had confidence in the car – it was my first time on the soft tyres, my first time doing a long run – and I’ll do better the second time, but for my first FP1 I’m happy. The thing that surprised me was how much quicker you arrive at Turn 1 on a quali sim, compared to the race. The guys have given me pointers throughout, especially because the track is so unique due to the altitude. It was over so fast, but I’m going to be back on the sim preparing for Abu Dhabi.”
Pourchaire: “I’m grateful to the team for this opportunity, even though we didn’t get much in terms of laps today. Unfortunately, I suffered an issue on the braking system at the beginning of the session, which prevented me to get any running throughout FP1 – the priority was, rightly, to promptly investigate the problem. Of course, it is a bit frustrating, as I was really looking forward to driving the C43 out on track; still, it’s all part of motorsport, and something like this can happen at any time – and, at least, it was during practice. On a positive note, the team was able to quickly address the issue and solve it between the sessions, so that Valtteri could get some proper track time this afternoon. I am hopeful I will get some more time in the car, but now, I will resume my reserve driver duties, while putting my focus on the Formula 2 finale which will take place in a little less than a month. There’s a job to be done and I want to give 100% towards my objective.”
Pirelli: “After two weekends run to the Sprint format, Mexico City marks a return to the usual one, with Friday given over mainly to an evaluation of the various compounds we have chosen for this event. In addition, we also had a test programme for a new version of the C4, with each driver having two sets available to use as they saw fit. We would like to thank all the teams for their support in this important phase of development, because it’s not easy squeezing something extra in what is always a very busy programme. I think we have gathered a lot of useful data – with significant results from some of the comparative tests between the current Medium and the prototype – which will see us make a decision in the coming days over its eventual inclusion in the 2024 range.”
Here’s how FP1 of F1 Mexico GP panned out
Here’s how FP2 of F1 Mexico GP panned out
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