Red Bull continued its dominance at the Mexican Grand Prix with the fastest two times in second practice — although its good news was tempered by more mechanical issues — while Renault and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also showed surprising pace.
Max Verstappen was once again the lead Red Bull driver, clocking a 1m16.720s to lead teammate Daniel Ricciardo by 0.153s in FP2, with the pair well over a second clear of the rest of the field. It wasn’t all plain sailing, however, as Verstappen complained of power unit issues halfway through the session and returned to the pits for investigations, before stopping on track after running wide at Turn 1 late in the session.
Verstappen was seen inspecting the rear of his car after the incident, which occurred with less than 10 minutes remaining, having lost power in a similar manner to Ricciardo at last week’s USGP at Circuit of The Americas.
As was the case in FP1, Carlos Sainz was third quickest on Friday afternoon, albeit over 1.2 seconds slower than Verstappen. Both Renaults remained competitive compared to the rest of the field, with Nico Hulkenberg in fifth place behind Sebastian Vettel as the French power unit appears to be coping well with the altitude in Mexico City.
In an extremely close group of cars behind the two Red Bulls, Brendon Hartley was sixth for Toro Rosso as he runs the team’s upgraded aerodynamic package. Like Renault, Honda is not using its latest specification of power unit in Mexico, believing its previous specification is better suited to the conditions.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton was seventh quickest — 0.147s slower than Sainz in third — while Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez were also within a quarter of a second of the lead Renault.
Hamilton also didn’t have a completely smooth session, cutting across the grass at Turn 1 early on having briefly locked his right-front tire, while Raikkonen made the same mistake but stayed on the brakes to make the corner, resulting in a bad vibration.
Pierre Gasly was the first driver out on track in order to make up for lost time, having completed just two laps in FP1 before a planned power unit change, while another driver to miss the first session — Fernando Alonso — went off at the first corner late on after getting caught in traffic, but managed to avoid damage despite a sideways moment when rejoining.
Although Mercedes seemed well off the pace, Red Bull’s performance will be encouraging for Hamilton who will become world champion for a fifth time if Vettel fails to win on Sunday.