Red Bull Racing dominated both practice sessions on Friday for the fourth time in the 2018 Formula 1 season. Max Verstappen lit up the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez and looks like the clear favorite for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Red Bull was joined at the front by an impressive Renault team. The French squad had both drivers, Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg, in the top five in both sessions. Friday is difficult to analyze for championship contenders Mercedes and Scuderia Ferrari.
Lewis Hamilton, the championship leader, managed to be only fifth and seventh. Valtteri Bottas, in the other Mercedes, was sixth and ninth on Friday.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who must win the race to have any hope of keeping the WDC alive, finished seventh and fourth. Kimi Raikkonen, last week’s winner at Austin, lined up eighth in both sessions.
Takeaways from Friday Practice
Both free practice sessions were in dry conditions.
The main takeaways from the two practice sessions were:
- Verstappen’s fastest lap in FP1 (1:16.656s) was 1.2 seconds faster than last years fastest lap in the first practice session and two tenths slower than last year’s pole lap by Vettel. The Dutchman went fastest in FP2 but was a tenth slower than his morning session time.
- Many drivers struggled with the hypersoft tyres, which did not last many flying laps. It is expected that the top runners will try to run the ultrasoft tyres in Q2 to start the race on those and avoid starting the Grand Prix on the hypersoft tyres.
- Renault had its best Friday of the season, although the gap to Red Bull was over a second in both sessions.
- Braking issues in the first corner were pretty common throughout the day. Given the long pit straight (1.3km), managing brake temperatures to open a flying lap will be highly important for every driver.
- While Renault might have been impressive, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s driver Brendon Hartley had a big day. The New Zealander finished inside the top ten in both sessions (ninth and sixth).
- Verstappen was brilliant, but his day did not end well due to an engine issue near the end of FP2. The Austrian squad’s boss, Christian Horner, said Verstappen’s car suffered a hydraulic problem. The Dutchman might suffer a grid penalty if elements are changed in the Power Unit.
- Home-hero Sergio Pérez put his Force India in 11th and 10th place in FP1 and FP2, respectively. The Mexican edged out his teammate Esteban Ocon by a tenth in FP2. While Canadian Nicholas Latifi went almost a tenth faster than ‘Checo’ in FP1.
The Last Word
Results of FP1:
|1||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:16.656||19|
|2||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:17.139||+0.483s||19|
|9||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:19.024||+2.368s||29|
|10||34||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:19.078||+2.422s||23|
|11||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:19.124||+2.468s||29|
|20||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||2|
Results of FP2:
|1||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:16.720||21|
|2||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:16.873||+0.153s||32|
|6||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:18.061||+1.341s||35|
|10||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:18.167||+1.447s||24|
|11||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:18.485||+1.765s||24|
|14||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:19.047||+2.327s||36|
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