Sergio Perez consolidated Red Bull Racing’s stranglehold on the Mexico City Grand Prix weekend with the fastest time of Saturday practice, while Mercedes struggled to hit the sweet spot ahead of qualifying.
The Mexican ratcheted up expectations among his fanatical home crowd with a lap of 1m17.024s late in the session on a used set of medium tires, taking a 0.193s advantage over the sister car.
Listen to the crowd ROAR as @SChecoPerez topped the timesheets 🤩
— Formula 1 (@F1) November 6, 2021
Verstappen set only one flying lap in the final four minutes of the hour, — having been waylaid in his garage for apparent damage at the rear of the car — and it was messy, the Dutchman complaining of an unexpected lack of grip.
Mercedes, meanwhile, struggled badly to extract performance from the car despite some mid-session setup changes. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were closely matched but 0.65s off the pace set by the home hero, and Hamilton sounded exasperated over team radio when informed of the size of the gap at the end of his final low-fuel run.
Adding together Hamilton’s best sector times brings him to within 0.37s, roughly in line with Friday’s expectations but likely still too far back to strike in the battle for pole.
Carlos Sainz was closer to Mercedes than Mercedes was to the front, the Spaniard putting Ferrari less than 0.4s behind the Black Arrows and a second off the pace.
Yuki Tsunoda was just 0.008s further back for AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver will start from the back of the grid with an engine penalty, and the Japanese driver’s session-topping 25 laps spoke to his focus on race pace.
McLaren was much improved after a lackluster Friday. Daniel Ricciardo was seventh and less than a tenth behind Sainz after the team attempted to practice having him towed by teammate Lando Norris, who is due for a back-of-grid engine penalty. Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc followed in eighth and ninth, with Norris completing the top 10.
Lance Stroll was 11th ahead of Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi and Aston Martin teammate Sebastian Vettel.
Alpine dropped well off the pace relative to Friday to end the session with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon 15th and 16th, the latter with a new power unit after Friday.
George Russell, running a new gearbox that will bring him a five-place penalty on the grid, was 17th ahead of Mick Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin.