Valtteri Bottas leads the Mercedes one-two ahead of Lewis Hamilton with championship leader Max Verstappen just 0.123 seconds behind; Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc crashed in the last sector of the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit, damaging the rear wings
by Matt Morlidge
Last updated: 21/05/21 18:54
Valtteri Bottas set the pace in the first free practice of the Mexico City GP as he and Lewis Hamilton ensured Mercedes started a crucial weekend with a slight lead over Max Verstappen, whose Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez crashed along with Charles Leclerc.
The stakes in the 2021 championship are higher than ever with Verstappen and Hamilton split by just 12 points with five races remaining, and after the Dutchman’s victory on a “Mercedes track” last time in the United States, there is a lot of intrigue for it. weekend on a circuit typically more suited to Red Bull.
But while Verstappen’s pace seemed menacing in the early stages – keeping up with Mercedes on a harder tire – Bottas and Hamilton both beat his lap on soft tires to give the world champions an, albeit small, advantage.
Bottas topped the rankings with a 1: 18.341, 0.076s ahead of Hamilton and 0.123s ahead of Verstappen.
“I still think Honda’s power is working well here,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle as he continued to support Red Bull as a favorite.
Perez was only a tenth behind Verstappen as he recovered from an initial swing on the home circuit.
On a dusty track hosting a Grand Prix for the first time since 2019, Perez and Leclerc had almost identical detours in the opening part of the session, spinning their cars in the last sector and damaging their rear wings.
The Mercedes session, meanwhile, was not perfect despite the one-two – Hamilton will have to present himself to the stewards between P1 and P2 for his return to the track on grass after going wide at turn 1.
All eyes for the battle for the “best of the rest” for fifth place this weekend should have been on McLaren and Ferrari, but both teams have work to do. Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris were hampered by traffic and lack of rhythm to finish 14th and 15th, while Carlos Sainz and Leclerc were sixth and eighth, but couldn’t even find the pace.
In the fray at the head of the standings was Pierre Gasly, just six tenths of a second from Bottas’ benchmark, fifth for the Honda-powered AlphaTauri.
His teammate Yuki Tsunoda is one of two riders who already know they have an engine penalty this weekend, with Lance Stroll also starting Sunday’s race at the back of the Aston Martin grid.
Mercedes is not expecting a drop in the Hamilton grid this weekend, despite reliability issues.
Mexico City Timesheet 1 Practice
|1) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||1: 18.341|
|2) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||+0.076|
|3) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.123|
|4) Sergio Perez||Red Bull||+0.269|
|5) Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||+0.644|
|6) Carlos Sainz||Ferrari||+1.122|
|7) Fernando Alonso||Alpine||+1.315|
|8) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+1.326|
|9) Esteban Ocon||Alpine||+1.418|
|10) Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||+1.517|
|11) Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||+1.670|
|12) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.685|
|13) Walk with the spear||Aston Martin||+1.689|
|14) Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||+1.932|
|15) Lando Norris||McLaren||+1.960|
|16) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+2.003|
|17) George Russell||Williams||+2.176|
|18) Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+3.239|
|19) Mick Schumacher||Haas||+3,803|
|20) Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+4.478|