Ferrari's Carlos Sainz set the benchmark in the opening practice session for the Mexico City Grand Prix, pipping his team mate Charles Leclerc in an extremely tight 60-minute session. F1Technical's Balázs Szabó reports on Free Practice 1.
As the season slowly nears its conclusion, several teams have once again opted to work with young drivers in a bid to comply with FIA's new 2022 sporting rule that forces teams to complete at least two practice sessions with drivers who have not participated in more than two grands prix in the last two seasons.
The push to satisfy the requirement saw Pietro Fittipaldi take over the car of Kevin Magnussen, Jack Doohan drive Esteban Ocon's Alpine, Nyck de Vries complete the opening session in George Russell's Mercedes, Logan Sargeant take over Alexander Albon's car and Liam Lawson gain experience in Yuki Tsunoda's AlphaTauri.
The opening part of Free Practice 1 saw the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez dictate the pace on the hard compound with their rivals struggling on the dirty surface of the Hermanos Rodriquez circuit. Ferrari's Charles Leclerc suffered a puncture on his second lap which forced him to sit out the opening stages of the practice.
When the Monegasque rolled out on to the track that sits 2.2km above sea level, on Pirelli's soft tyres, he quickly took over the lead from Verstappen, setting a 1m20.753. However, that time was then ecplised by his team mate Carlos Sainz, who managed to go by 46 thousands of a second faster.
Home hero Perez took third ahead of his team mate Verstappen, who appeared to be clearly the fastest driver on the track, but he lost control of his car in the middle sector on his first hot lap that could have been enough for P1.
Mercedes indicated ahead of the weekend that they ecpect their W13 to excel in Mexico due to the high altitude that requires almost maximum downforce despite the long straights due to the thin air. Lewis Hamilton lived up to these expectations as he went third fastest with a late push lap, going only a tenth slower than Leclerc.
De Vries, who is set to start his full-time grand prix career next year, ended the session down in P18.
Following his turbulent race, Fernando Alonso once again appeared to be in perfect form, taking sixth for Alpine. The Spaniard, who got back his seventh place from last weekend's United States Grand Prix following Alpine's appeal, finished almost 3.8 seconds faster than Doohan, who stood in for Ocon in the opening practice.
The last five spots were occupied by the young drivers with AlphaTauri's Liam Lawson setting the fastest time with a 1m23.861. The session was red-flagged and ended prematurely after the New Zealander was forced to park his car down in the Foro Sol section of the track.
Sargeant, who is set to make his grand prix debut in 2023, took 17th for Williams, followed by de Vries, Doohan. Haas driver Enzo Fittipaldi ended the session slowest, but he was sidelined quite early in the session due to a potential engine issue which forced the FIA to red-flag the session for a short while.
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:20.827||+0.120s||22|
|4||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||1:20.827||+0.120s||22|
|6||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||1:20.899||+0.192s||26|
|7||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:21.083||+0.376s||23|
|8||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:21.120||+0.413s||21|
|9||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:21.310||+0.603s||25|
|10||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:21.525||+0.818s||24|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||1:21.762||+1.055s||16|
|12||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:21.820||+1.113s||20|
|13||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:21.865||+1.158s||24|
|14||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||1:21.952||+1.245s||22|
|15||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||1:22.912||+2.205s||20|
|16||40||Liam Lawson||Alphatauri Rbpt||1:23.861||+3.154s||19|
|17||45||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||1:24.246||+3.539s||22|
|18||19||Nyck De Vries||Mercedes||1:24.582||+3.875s||20|
|19||82||Jack Doohan||Alpine Renault||1:24.615||+3.908s||13|
|20||51||Pietro Fittipaldi||Haas Ferrari||1:26.766||+6.059s||9|