Nico Rosberg topped the second free practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix, as the Red Bulls split the Mercedes duo at the head of the times.
Rosberg lapped in 1m21.531s, 0.245s quicker than Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat, with Daniel Ricciardo also outpacing re-crowned champion Lewis Hamilton.
The session was interrupted early on when FP1 pacesetter Max Verstappen slammed into the barrier at the entry to the final corner.
In a later incident, Valtteri Bottas was lucky to emerge without major damage to his Williams after a huge high-speed spin at Turn 1, and Romain Grosjean caused a second red flag when a transmission gremlin stranded him out on track.
Story of the session
With all cars on the medium-compound tyre to start with, Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen set the bar early on with 1m25.820s, just before Verstappen caused a red flag when he piled into the tyrewall at the entry to the last corner.
He lost control of the rear of his car and clipped the TecPro barriers with his left-rear corner, which pivoted the front of the car into the wall too – swiping off the left-front wheel. "I crashed – sorry," he said.
Upon resumption, the times tumbled. Local hero Sergio Perez of Force India, Bottas and Rosberg took it in turns at the top, with Rosberg recording a 1m24.639s that was topped by Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel on 1m24.639s, 0.043s clear. Vettel almost crashed entering the pits at the end of his run.
Hamilton topped the times for the first time this weekend on 1m24.016s, two tenths clear of Kvyat. Hamilton then spun at Turn 5 after clipping the kerb.
Spots of rain began to fall after 30 minutes, causing Raikkonen an off-track excursion at Turn 12 and Hamilton locked up at Turn 13, forcing him into the pits with a flatspot.
Soft tyre runs
Perez was the first to try the soft tyre, as the rain threatened, but a scruffy lap began with an off-track moment through the final corner. Teammate Nico Hulkenberg jumped to the top of the times on 1m23.290s, with Sainz setting 1m23.987s in second.
Raikkonen took the top spot again on 1m23.244s before Rosberg toppled him with 1m22.272s.
Hamilton set the first sub-1m22s lap with 1m21.961s, fastest at the time by 0.311s. Rosberg responded with 1m21.531s, 0.43s quicker than his teammate.
Vettel went third quickest on 1m22.334s, just ahead of Raikkonen's 1m22.399s. Vettel improved his quickest time on the second push-lap on the soft tyre, recording a 1m21.984s that was just 0.023 off Hamilton's P2 time.
Red Bull left its soft runs later than most, and benefited as Kvyat split the Mercedes duo with a 1m21.776s to go second quickest, with teammate Ricciardo going third on 1m21.868s.
Romain Grosjean caused a second red flag when he pulled off with a gearbox issue. "Clutch is gone," he reported.
With no more fresh tyres available, and rain in the air, long runs concluded the session with no major improvements.
The McLaren-Hondas of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were eighth and ninth fastest, with Felipe Massa's Williams rounding out the top 10.
Hulkenberg slipped to 11th from Pastor Maldonado's Lotus. Sainz was 13th, ahead of Felipe Nasr's Sauber, Perez, Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson.
In the battle of the Manors, Alexander Rossi outpaced Will Stevens by a second.
Turn 1 hotspot
Bottas crashed at Turn 1, losing his front wing against the barrier but amazingly being able to drive back to the pits after losing control early in the braking zone at very high speed. "I don't know what happened under brakes," he reported.
Bottas rejoined the session to set the seventh fastest time.
Sainz locked up and ploughed across the grass at Turn 1: "I don't know if there's something slippery going on down there," he said. He repeated the feat later.
Maldonado overshot on his first flying lap with softs, and also went off there at the end of the session too.
|2||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||1:21.776||+0.245||27|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:21.868||+0.337||28|
|11||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:23.290||+1.759||34|
|12||Pastor Maldonado||Team Lotus||1:23.363||+1.832||24|
|13||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||1:23.364||+1.833||41|
|15||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:23.597||+2.066||33|
|16||Romain Grosjean||Team Lotus||1:23.614||+2.083||26|
|Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||2|