Mexico GP | Bottas leads Hamilton in red-flagged FP1

Valtteri Bottas fastest in first practice for the Mexico Grand Prix.

As the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez handed low levels of grip, Valtteri Bottas out-paced championship-chasing Lewis Hamilton to top the opening practice session at the Mexican Grand Prix. While the Mexican racer Alfonso Celis understudied for Esteban Ocon, but took the shine of his home session with a red-flag inducing crash.

Valtteri’s fastest lap of the 90-minute session came on the once again purple-walled Pirelli ultrasoft tyres. The firm favourite of Mercedes who opted for 9 sets of the ultrasoft tyres, compared to Red Bull who selected six with additional sets of softs instead.

The lap itself was set inside the opening half of the session as many drivers found grip to be at a minimum thanks to a very dusty track both on and off-line. Leading some drivers, like Hamilton, to spend an extra lap weaving to generate enough heat and grip for a flying lap

Drivers’ were also testing the limits at the opening bend where extra sausage kerbs have been laid to further prevent drivers from short-cutting across the grass should they miss their braking points.

Bottas’ fastest time of the day, a 1:17.824, saw the Finn demote the only contender to Hamilton clinching the drivers’ title now that Valtteri is mathematically out of contention after Lewis’ USGP victory. Having seen Vettel post a 1:19.041 that had been strong enough for P1.

Hamilton’s best effort of the opening session saw the Briton take second place, ahead of the Red Bull duo. A position that come Sunday would be enough to clinch the championship.

At first, Lewis moved ahead of Vettel for second place after strong first and middle sectors countered a poor run through the stadium sector that left the Briton eight-tenths off his team-mate. Later improving to reduce the margin inside half a second, with thirty minutes remaining.

Bottas out-pacing his Mercedes team-mate meant Valtteri topped a free-practice session for the first time since the British Grand Prix, back in July.

Just four minutes after Hamilton’s improved lap, the red flags were out as Alfonso Celis spun at the final corner and caused excessive damage to Esteban Ocon’s Force India.

Celis had attempted to carry too much speed into the final corner of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriquez as he made a free-practice outing at his home Grand Prix. The speed, though, saw the rear step out and the rear wing snap free upon contact with the barrier.

Damage sustained deemed too much by the Mexican to limp around the remaining part of the bend to return to the pits.

Seconds prior to Alfonso’s spin, Kimi Raikkonen, too, spun. Losing control of his Scuderia Ferrari through the middle sector esses. But with enough run-off around him to return to racing speeds undamaged.

Following the restart, third-placed Max Verstappen remained in the Red Bull garage as his mechanics set to work on a lengthy set-up change.

McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne also spent the majority of the session in the team’s garage. Only emerging for three installation laps early on, as the Woking outfits mechanics were forced to change the Honda power unit the team intended to run. Resulting in a second set of engine change penalties for the Belgian, ensuring he will start the Mexican Grand Prix from the rear of the field alongside his team-mate who too carries a string of grid pens for power unit element changes.

Pos Driver Team Engine Laps Time Gap
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 42 1’17.824
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 35 1’18.290 0.466
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 16 1’18.395 0.571
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 28 1’18.421 0.597
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 28 1’18.586 0.762
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 27 1’19.008 1.184
7 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 21 1’19.240 1.416
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 20 1’19.346 1.522
9 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 32 1’19.443 1.619
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 19 1’19.552 1.728
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault Renault 24 1’19.554 1.73
12 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 34 1’19.772 1.948
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 16 1’20.644 2.82
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 30 1’20.971 3.147
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Haas Ferrari 26 1’21.269 3.445
16 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 28 1’21.446 3.622
17 Sean Gelael Toro Rosso Renault 29 1’21.639 3.815
18 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Renault 10 1’21.747 3.923
19 Alfonso Celis Jr. Force India Mercedes 17 1’22.342 4.518
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 3

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