MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 26: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on October 26, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

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 Pirelli tyre choice for this race, for dry conditions, are the red-striped supersoft tyre, the purple-striped ultrasoft tyre, and the pink-striped hypersoft tyres.

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

Red Bull looks like the team to beat in México. An impressive Friday saw both cars ahead of the pack by more than a second in FP2. Although Ferrari and Mercedes did not show any pace on Friday, both teams should not be ruled out of competing for the podium places come race day.

Results of FP1:

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:16.656 19
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:17.139 +0.483s 19
3 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:17.926 +1.270s 20
4 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:18.028 +1.372s 21
5 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:18.075 +1.419s 23
6 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:18.322 +1.666s 27
7 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:18.746 +2.090s 17
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:18.936 +2.280s 22
9 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:19.024 +2.368s 29
10 34 Nicholas Latifi FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:19.078 +2.422s 23
11 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:19.124 +2.468s 29
12 36 Antonio Giovinazzi SAUBER FERRARI 1:19.134 +2.478s 25
13 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:19.276 +2.620s 26
14 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:19.312 +2.656s 28
15 47 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 1:19.646 +2.990s 23
16 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:19.716 +3.060s 29
17 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:19.853 +3.197s 28
18 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:19.899 +3.243s 30
19 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:20.142 +3.486s 26
20 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 2

Results of FP2:

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS
1 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:16.720 21
2 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:16.873 +0.153s 32
3 55 Carlos Sainz RENAULT 1:17.953 +1.233s 35
4 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:17.954 +1.234s 42
5 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:18.046 +1.326s 36
6 28 Brendon Hartley SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:18.061 +1.341s 35
7 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:18.100 +1.380s 40
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:18.133 +1.413s 42
9 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:18.140 +1.420s 40
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:18.167 +1.447s 24
11 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:18.485 +1.765s 24
12 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:18.733 +2.013s 39
13 16 Charles Leclerc SAUBER FERRARI 1:19.024 +2.304s 39
14 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:19.047 +2.327s 36
15 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN RENAULT 1:19.096 +2.376s 30
16 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:19.219 +2.499s 25
17 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:19.322 +2.602s 41
18 35 Sergey Sirotkin WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:19.335 +2.615s 37
19 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN RENAULT 1:19.543 +2.823s 31
20 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:19.670 +2.950s 35

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