Continuing his form from America, Lewis Hamilton set the opening pace for the Mexico Grand Prix, topping the time sheet in Free Practice One. He set a time of 1:20.914 on the medium compound of tyres.
His teammate, Nico Rosberg, looked to be closing in on the time that Hamilton had set, but never managed to make the gains the Brit did on the medium tyre. He finished seventh, seven-tenths off Hamilton’s pace.
Mercedes began the session in a class of their own, setting times over a second faster than the rest of the field. The oddly cold air and track temperature clearly affected some of the cars more than others. As the session drew to a close the times started to get closer, bringing the field back down to being covered by 3.436 seconds.
It was the Ferrari duo who ended the session closest to Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel was 0.079 seconds off whilst his teammate Kimi Raikkonen was just over a tenth of a second off the Mercedes. Whether this is just chance of circumstance or something to be taken seriously is yet to be known. The top three drivers set their times on different tyres: Hamilton on the mediums, Vettel on the softs and Raikkonen on the super softs.
The Force India duo came fourth and fifth when the chequered flag fell, but from the characteristics of the track, it will not be an easy weekend for them. Both cars completed most of the session on the super soft compound and it could be argued this was the way they stayed in the top ten. The short stint they had on the harder tyres saw them out of the top ten significantly.
This could be a chance for Wiliams to try and get back some points on the Force India team in the Constructor’s Championship. The track seems much better suited to their car and their drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa finished sixth and ninth respectively. However, they were on the harder tyres to the Force Indias so there is time to be made up there.
Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, with the top ten being rounded off by Toro Rosso’s recently resigned Daniil Kvyat.
Max Verstappen fell out of the top ten and ended P14 after his session was ended early due to brake issues. The Red Bull returned to the pits with a very smokey rear that was later discovered to be an internal fire that had charred the brake drums on Verstappen’s car. The Dutchman lost about half of the session and will be hoping that the damage can be repaired before Free Practice Two starts so he does not miss any more track time.
There was a brief red flag during the session, which was the only stoppage that was caused over the 90 minutes. Felipe Nasr rode his Sauber over the exit kerb which caused his front wing to rub on the track. This cracked the front wing which, as he put the power down at the exit of the corner, shattered half of the front wing. The Sauber was in the pits until the last ten minutes of the session whilst the team investigated the incident. It has raised concerns about the kerbs around the circuit, something that will have to be looked into if the incident is repeated.