The gap from Mercedes to Ferrari and Red Bull at the Mexican Grand Prix is bigger than expected on Friday, according to Valtteri Bottas.
Lewis Hamilton was quickest in FP1, but the second session saw Ferrari and Red Bull pull away from Mercedes as Sebastian Vettel set the pace ahead of Max Verstappen. Bottas was the lead Mercedes but 0.6s off the pace and he admits the way practice panned out saw the team further adrift than anticipated.
“Not the easiest day, it was pretty slippery today out there,” Bottas said. “Especially the first session was really tricky with the oversteer balance of the car. It felt a lot better in the second practice, and not a bad feeling, but I felt we were still lacking a bit of grip. Both Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be performing well on this track so far, but as always, it’s only Friday. There’s usually lots of things we can do better the next day, we just need to work hard tonight.
“(The gap) is bigger than we expected at this point of the weekend, but we know we can find some gains. We’ll work for that.
“We know that we have quite a big deficit on the straight lines compared to Ferrari, so even qualifying on the front row it could be tricky to maintain the lead into Turn 1. But we’ll try to do the best in both, but in the end, as we’ve seen, it’s always the Sunday that matters. We’ve been strong on Sundays, so hopefully this weekend too.”
And Hamilton admits he expects the deficit to Ferrari to grow rather than come down on Saturday given the Scuderia’s straight line speed advantage in recent qualifying sessions.
“It’s not been a great day but this is how it usually is here,” Hamilton said. “We’ve definitely learnt a lot and I haven’t had any particularly major dramas, it is just trying to understand these tires. It was cooler this morning and then a bit warmer in FP2 and from the short runs to the long runs it’s just hard to pinpoint exactly how to get these tires working. But that’s the name of the game.
“I think we’re not massively far off the Red Bulls but the Ferraris, they just keep turning up their engine down the straights and the difference between us and them is massive. I think between the rest of the drivers as well.”