Max Verstappen headed a Red Bull Racing one-two in the opening practice session for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, with the 2017 race winner here beating out team-mate Daniel Ricciardo by almost half a second.
Verstappen and Ricciardo set their quickest times on Pirelli’s hypersoft tyres and while both Mercedes and Ferrari ran on the pink-banded tyre during the 90-minute session, they posted their best laps on the ultrasoft tyres as they minimised running on the softest tyre in Pirelli’s range.
As such, championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who can seal the title with a seventh-placed finish on Sunday, ended the session in fifth place, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas sixth ahead of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen.
Verstappen seized control of the session with a lap of 1:18.588, with Ricciardo just a tenth behind his team-mate. Hamilton then moved into top spot with this best lap on hypesoft tyres, three tenths ahead of the Red Bull drivers’ early pace, but in the second half of running Red Bull again bolted on the pink-banded tyres and after exchanging improvements, Verstappen eventually stepped up the pace and set a time of 1:16.596. Ricciardo also found more improivement but in the end couldn’t get close to his team-mate’s pace and ended the session 0.483 behind the Dutchman.
Third place in the session went to Renault’s Carlos Sainz with a lap of 1:17.926, some 1.2s behind Verstappen. The Spaniard’s team-mate Nico Hulkenberg was next on the timesheet, a tenth off Sainz.
With fifth to eighth occupied by Mercedes and Ferrari, ninth place went to Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. The New Zealander, who was running with the upgraded front wing and floor trialled last weekend on team-mate Pierre Gasly’s car, set a best time of 1:19.024 to finish 2.368s off Verstappen’s pace.
Force India tester Nicholas Latifi, standing in for Racing Point Force India regular Esteban Ocon rounded out the top ten, finishing four hundredths of a second ahead of local hero Sergio Pérez in the second Racing Point Force India.
Twelfth place was taken by future Sauber driver Antonio Giovinazzi who was in Charles Leclerc’s car for the session. The Italian driver finished 2.478s off P1 but 1500ths of a second ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean.
The final stand-in driver of the day was Lando Norris who took P15 in Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson but ahead of McLaren team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.
At the bottom of the order, Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly did not set a time. His car required an engine change, with Honda reverting to a pre-Russia spec which the manufacturer deem better for the conditions in Mexico City.
2018 Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 19 1:16.656
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 19 1:17.139 0.483
3 Carlos Sainz Renault 20 1:17.926 1.270
4 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 21 1:18.028 1.372
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 23 1:18.075 1.419
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 27 1:18.322 1.666
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 17 1:18.746 2.090
8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 22 1:18.936 2.280
9 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 29 1:19.024 2.368
10 Nicholas Latifi Force India 23 1:19.078 2.422
11 Sergio Perez Force India 29 1:19.124 2.468
12 Antonion Giovinazzi Sauber 25 1:19.134 2.478
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 26 1:19.276 2.620
14 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 28 1:19.312 2.656
15 Lando Norris McLaren 23 1:19.646 2.990
16 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 29 1:19.716 3.060
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 28 1:19.853 3.197
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 30 1:19.899 3.243
19 Lance Stroll Williams 26 1:20.142 3.486
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 2