Hamilton leads first Mexico practice as 0.134s covers top three teams

Image by Zak Mauger/LAT

Hamilton leads first Mexico practice as 0.134s covers top three teams

Formula 1

Hamilton leads first Mexico practice as 0.134s covers top three teams

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Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time of the first practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix as 0.134s covered Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

On a circuit that Mercedes has traditionally struggled at since the introduction of high-downforce regulations in 2017, Hamilton posted a 1m17.327s to lead Charles Leclerc by 0.119s. Max Verstappen — winner of the past two races in Mexico — was third, with teammate Alexander Albon a little under half a second further back in fourth place.

Standings in first practice are not always representative but Leclerc’s time was particularly eye-catching given it came on the medium compound tire as opposed to the softs used by the majority of teams.

It was a tricky opening session at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with the track declared wet and a number of installation laps taking place on intermediate tires. When drivers switched to slicks, the low grip and low downforce due to the altitude saw plenty of mistakes, with Turn 1 in particular catching drivers out as they hit the brakes from over 205mph. Sebastian Vettel finished sixth behind Valtteri Bottas after a big lock-up into the first corner.

The session was red-flagged for 11 minutes when Lance Stroll was completely caught out by the low grip and crashed in the final sector. Stroll lost the rear turning into the Peraltada — exiting the stadium section — and hit the wall on the outside of the track. The impact was heavy enough to damage the left-hand side of the car and break the rear wing. But Stroll was able to limp back to the pits to allow repairs to start ahead of FP2.

At the time Stroll was eighth in the standings with 21 minutes remaining, but he ended up 16th in a sign of how much conditions were improving during the session and how close the midfield remains.

Shortly after the restart, one of the challenges of Mexico was highlighted as traffic built up in the final sector. As the second-shortest track on the calendar after Monaco and with a slow final sector, drivers were backing off to get clean air to start timed laps but it led to Verstappen trying to overtake a Haas and nearly making contact.

Behind the usual top six, Carlos Sainz was again best of the rest ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, both using medium tires. Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen had a number of off-track moments.

Nicholas Latifi had a largely clean run in the Williams as he replaced Robert Kubica in FP1, but after 30 laps — the highest number of the session — he was a second adrift of George Russell in the sister car.

 

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