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A class above: Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2 in Mexico F1 GP Practice

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A class above: Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2 in Mexico F1 GP Practice
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Oct 26, 2018, 11:26 PM

In one of the best days for Renault-powered cars for some time, the French power unit suppliers had four of their cars in the top five for the Mexi...

In one of the best days for Renault-powered cars for some time, the French power unit suppliers had four of their cars in the top five for the Mexican Grand Prix practice session, with Red Bull having a huge margin over their front-running rivals, who struggled more with the low-downforce high-altitude conditions.

Max Verstappen completed a Friday clean sweep by leading both free practice sessions, ending the day with a 1:16.720 and just one tenth ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo. However, the Dutchman's day ended ten minutes earlier than scheduled when he lost all power and was forced to park the RB14 with a suspected hydraulics issue.

If the issues can be resolved, the Red Bull team look set to take full advantage of their aerodynamic and chassis efficiencies, due to the reduction in the performance differences of the internal combustion engines and turbochargers, which are the main aspects of the power units affected by the higher-altitude conditions.

"I think it was a hydraulic failure, we don't know what it was exactly," said Verstappen after practice.

"We have a good car; good downforce, good mechanical grip. We knew that, we could see that already in Monaco of course, and today again it worked really well.

"Today is really good, but we have to keep on working to be better."

There was a chasm between second and third place, which was surprisingly occupied by the Renault of Carlos Sainz, who were expected to be strong in the slower-speed corners, but certainly not mixing with Ferrari and Mercedes. It is anticipated, however, that they will fall behind the top six come Saturday.

Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth place ahead of the second Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, whilst a very strong lap from Brendon Hartley put the Toro Rosso in sixth place, ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who echoed the sentiments of many drivers by saying the hypersoft tyres were "finished" after around a dozen laps.

The second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen was eighth, with Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas in ninth and local favourite Sergio Perez in tenth. Third through to tenth were covered by less than one-quarter of a second.

Things didn't get much better for Ferrari or Mercedes on the long runs, either. Their average lap times were the best part of one second per lap slow than the Red Bulls, who appeared to have better pace and better wear than their rivals.

Ferrari spent some of free practice one further assessing their floor designs. The update they introduced in the second half of the season was taken off for Austin - which they won - and they allocated one design to each Ferrari in FP1 to gather more data.

Toro Rosso incur more engine penalties

Both Toro Rosso drivers will revert back to the 'Spec B' power unit for the Mexican Grand Prix, due to the Honda units not being calibrated for the higher altitudes.

However, Pierre Gasly has been given a 'back-of-the-grid' penalty for a separate assembly-related issue on their 'Spec C' engines, which means they have decided to take a new 'Spec C' unit for use in later races.

They ran this new power unit in FP1, but only for a couple of laps before installing the 'Spec B' power unit for the rest of the weekend.

MEXICAN GRAND PRIX, Free Practice

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 1m16.720s - 21laps

2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m16.873s 0.153s 32

3 Carlos Sainz Renault No time 1m17.953s 1.233s 35

4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m17.954s 1.234s 42

5 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1m18.046s 1.326s 36

6 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda 1m18.061s 1.341s 35

7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.100s 1.380s 40

8 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m18.133s 1.413s 42

9 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m18.140s 1.420s 40

10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m18.167s 1.447s 24

11 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes 1m18.485s 1.765s 24

12 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m18.733s 2.013s 39

13 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari 1m19.024s 2.304s 39

14 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m19.047s 2.327s 36

15 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault 1m19.096s 2.376s 30

16 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes 1m19.219s 2.499s 25

17 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 1m19.322s 2.602s 41

18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes 1m19.335s 2.615s 37

19 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault 1m19.543s 2.823s 31

20 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m19.670s 2.950s 35

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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Series Formula 1
Author Luke Murphy
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