Verstappen confirms favourite status, Hamilton third

Advantage to Max Verstappen and Red Bull after the opening day’s practice action in Mexico; Verstappen finishes P2 half a second clear of Lewis Hamilton; Watch Qualifying at 8pm on Saturday live only on Sky Sports F1

By James Galloway

Last Updated: 05/11/21 11:18pm

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Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to analyse how Max Verstappen took fastest lap during the second practice session in Mexico City

Karun Chandhok was at the SkyPad to analyse how Max Verstappen took fastest lap during the second practice session in Mexico City

Max Verstappen showed why Red Bull are considered the favourites for the Mexico City GP by comfortably setting the pace in Practice Two, as Lewis Hamilton finished third.

Mercedes may have finished first and second in Friday’s opening session but Red Bull, the quickest car on F1’s previous three visits to the at-altitude Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, showed their RB16B’s pace in the more-representative afternoon session – especially in Verstappen’s hands.

The championship leader’s best lap of 1:17.301 was 0.424s quicker than Valtteri Bottas, with Hamilton a further tenth back in third place.

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The Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both went across the grass during Practice Two ahead of the Mexico City GP

The Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both went across the grass during Practice Two ahead of the Mexico City GP

Hamilton, who was reprimanded by stewards in the lunch break for not re-entering the track correctly in the first session after running through the grass, also ran off track at the same point on his first stint of the afternoon, damaging his tyres.

He quickly worked his way back up the timesheet after that but, although he was initially able to trade quickest laps with Verstappen, the Red Bull ultimately had too much pace on the soft-tyre qualifying simulations.

Hamilton, who trails Verstappen by 12 points, admitted: “We’re giving it absolutely everything we’ve got, they’re just quicker than us at the moment.”

While satisfied with his team’s start to the event, Red Bull boss Christian Horner nonetheless suggested: “I think Mercedes have still got a bit in the pocket, so I don’t think we have seen their full potential yet.

“But focusing on ourselves, it was a reasonable day.”

Home favourite Sergio Perez was fourth, nearly 0.6s back on team-mate Verstappen, with Carlos Sainz fifth in the lead Ferrari.

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Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel took a little detour via the McLaren pit box during P2!

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel took a little detour via the McLaren pit box during P2!

McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo and Williams’ George Russell were both forced out early in the session with gearbox issues on their respective cars.

But there was light relief at Aston Martin during the session when Sebastian Vettel pulled into the wrong pit box. Driving through the empty McLaren service area before arriving at his own team, the four-time world champion quipped: “Sorry for that, I wasn’t looking.”

Vettel enjoyed a productive day on track to finish ninth fastest, just ahead of old title rival Fernando Alonso (Alpine). But both the former champions’ respective teams finished behind AlphaTauri, who took sixth and eighth with Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda.

However, Tsunoda will start Sunday’s race at the back of the field owing to engine penalties. The same will be true of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll.

Driver Team Time 1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:17.301 2) Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.424 3) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.509 4) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.570 5) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +1.017 6) Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +1.128 7) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1.304 8) Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +1.343 9) Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +1.380 10) Fernando Alonso Alpine +1.431 11) Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo +1.540 12) Lando Norris McLaren +1.678 13) Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo +1.926 14) Esteban Ocon Alpine +2.130 15) Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +2.220 16) Mick Schumacher Haas +2.319 17) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +2.429 18) Nicholas Latifi Williams +3.519 19) Nikita Mazepin Haas +4.280 20) George Russell Williams No time set

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