Bottas, Mercedes start fast in Mexico, but Hamilton under investigation

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Bottas, Mercedes start fast in Mexico, but Hamilton under investigation

Formula 1

Bottas, Mercedes start fast in Mexico, but Hamilton under investigation

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Valtteri Bottas bested teammate Lewis Hamilton in a dusty opening practice session at the Mexico City Grand Prix. The Mercedes pair were split by just 0.076s after an hour on track, the Finn setting the pace with a time of 1m18.341s, but Briton will face a post-session stewards investigation for running wide at Turn 1 and cutting across the grass to rejoin at Turn 3 without driving wide around the traffic cone as required.

Max Verstappen — heavy favorite for victory ahead of the weekend on account of Red Bull Racing’s form at this track — was third and just 0.123s off the headline pace.

Grip at the high-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was at a premium early, with the dirty track cleaning up progressively and lap times improving constantly as a result. But the slipperiness of the surface caught out drivers early, including home favorite Sergio Perez, who spun backwards at the penultimate corner at the exit of the stadium section and crunched his rear wing in the barrier.

Half of the wing sheered off the car, and though he returned to the pits under his own power, he lost more than 20 minutes to repairs. A late lap on the soft tire brought him up to fourth, 0.269s off the pace.

The gap to the rest of the field was considerable, though Pierre Gasly was superb in fifth to sit in the void 0.644s off the pace.

Carlos Sainz followed, the Spaniard 1.122s adrift, to lead an Alpine-Ferrari battle. Fernando Alonso was 0.2s further back, just topping Charles Leclerc in seventh and eighth — Leclerc had a Perez-like crash early in the session and likewise lost time to repairs to the rear of his car — while Esteban Ocon was another tenth behind in ninth place.

Sebastian Vettel completed the top 10 for Aston Martin. Yuki Tsunoda followed on setting up the car for the race on his way to 11th. The Japanese driver was running a brand-new Honda motor beyond his season allocation, which will send him to the back of the grid with a penalty.

Kimi Raikkonen was 12th for Alfa Romeo and will also be investigated by the stewards for running wide at Turn 1, while Lance Stroll was 13th but also carries a back-of-grid penalty for new engine components.

McLaren teammates Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were closely matched but 1.9s off the pace. Antonio Giovinazzi followed ahead of Williams teammates George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, and Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin completed the order for Haas.

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