ESPN rounds up all the reaction from up and down the Mexico City paddock following practice for the 2018 Mexican Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton: ”The car was good in some places, but not so good in others. It’s not about one particular area; there are lots of different things that we can improve. It was difficult with the high track temperatures, which were melting and graining the tyres, but a lot of people were experiencing that today. We run the biggest wings at this track but are still quite quick on the straights because of the altitude, but then there’s not a lot of grip through the corners, even on the HyperSoft tyres. We’ve got some ground to catch up on, so we’re now going to go through everything in the debrief and look at all the details to find some answers. Red Bull seem out of our reach at the moment, Ferrari are right there with us, but we’re here to try and compete, so we will do the best we can to have a real race.”
Valtteri Bottas: ”It was a pretty difficult day. We struggled with the pace in both sessions and like nearly everyone else we also struggled with tyre life. Both of the compounds started to grain quickly and it feels like we’re lacking overall grip, so the car is sliding around a lot which is then wearing the tyres. We don’t have a definite answer why the pace isn’t quite there yet; we’re going to have to analyse it and look at it from every angle. We have plenty of work to do for tomorrow and, while we are scratching our heads a little at this point, I’m confident that we’ll find answers over the course of the evening and come back stronger tomorrow.”
James Allison, technical director: “This is an unusual track, which places unusual demands on the chassis, power unit, cooling systems and tyres. From all our running today, we have to conclude that we have not yet found the best way to meet those unusual demands with good performance on both single laps and in the long runs. We were overheating the power unit in a number of areas today, and that meant we had to protect against this by turning it down as a precaution. With a bit luck, and no little hard work, we can get ourselves into better shape tomorrow and on Sunday, when conditions are also forecast to be cooler. We have plenty of work ahead of us overnight and in FP3 tomorrow to put ourselves in a stronger position than we were able to achieve today.”
Sebastian Vettel: “Today it was difficult to make the car work the right way. However, it was interesting to compare the packages this morning, while during the afternoon session we focused more on preparing for the qualifying session and the race, which was good. On the fast lap though, we struggled to find the right balance and squeeze everything from the tires. The difficult part is that there is no grip and downforce, so it’s pretty slippery and the tires don’t work the right way. So, I think this is why, in some cases, you can see big gaps in lap times. We’ll try to fix everything for tomorrow. This will be the main job to do. I believe everybody can still improve for tomorrow, and we’ll try as hard as we can, but I think the key point will be the tires”.
Kimi Raikkonen: “This track has always been tricky to start with, because of the very low downforce, and today it was no different. It was a normal Friday in Mexico, with very limited grip on the track, so it’s easy to make mistakes and flatspot a tire. Because of this, we had a lot of vibrations in the car, which is not ideal, but towards the end it was getting better. How good we are against the others we’ll see tomorrow. For sure we improved through the session, but there is still some work to be done”.
Daniel Ricciardo: “Our car worked really well on low fuel runs in both sessions today which should put us in a good position for qualifying, but I don’t want to be naïve as I’m sure Mercedes and Ferrari will turn it up and give us a push tomorrow. If it stays like this it could be a close six-way fight for pole which would be pretty exciting for everyone. Tomorrow I want to work more on our race pace and the high fuel runs as we weren’t quite as competitive on those. It seems with the altitude here everyone’s power levels are closer, we will see tomorrow once everyone goes into qualifying mode but today on paper we look good. The key in qualifying will be to get a clean lap as it’s still quite slippery around here and it’s easy to make small mistakes. The Hypersoft is graining a lot, which is actually quite nice, as most of the races this season have been easy on a one-stop so maybe we will actually get a two-stop this weekend.”
Max Verstappen: “Today has been really good, better than expected. Not just for me but for Daniel also, it’s nice to have us both at the top. We have a very good car at this circuit, good downforce and good mechanical grip. This was already clear from Monaco earlier in the year and you can see again it is working really well here. If you have good grip you can make quite a big gap quickly because the surface is quite slippery out there. As always there are areas to improve but for now it’s looking good. I said in Japan that it was one of my worst Friday’s in F1, this has been one of the best. The car was quick here last year but after today I think we are more competitive than 2017. We think I had a small issue with hydraulics at the end but we haven’t been able to check the car yet. We are not too concerned ahead of tomorrow, the guys will investigate this evening but hopefully it is a quick fix.”
Esteban Ocon: “I did my best to get up to speed quickly, but we didn’t have many laps on the hypersoft tyres. The long runs went to plan and we learned about the tyres, but I think everybody discovered that managing them on Sunday is going to be a big challenge. It’s the same for everybody and it should be entertaining for the fans.”
Sergio Perez: “Friday was a day of learning and we’ve come away with good information. This morning we were a bit surprised to see how the tyres were performing and they will have a big influence on the race result. If you understand them, you will find a big advantage. Qualifying well is important here, but I think even more important is to have strong race pace and that is where we are focussing our energy tonight.”
Nicholas Latifi: “It was a good session for me. I was happy to be back in the car after missing out last week in Austin [due to the adverse weather]. It was a pretty straightforward session, testing set-ups and helping the team learn about the tyres. The conditions were quite tricky today and I experienced the lowest grip and the most sliding I’ve ever had in a Formula One car. The altitude reduces the downforce and you really feel it, but it was quite fun. Each time I drive the car I want to make a step forward in performance and I think today was one of my better FP1 performances.”
Lance Stroll: ”It was the usual Friday. We did a fair bit of running and learnt a lot in these conditions with high altitude and low grip. It took some adapting from my side and for the engineers this weekend. We must think about a few things going into tomorrow. We will try to get into Q2, but we don’t really know where our competitors stand, as you never really know on a Friday. Looking at the time sheets today it is close, but that is Formula One. It is going to be tricky on the tyres, especially for the guys starting on the hypersoft – I wish them luck! We will see what Sunday brings and I am sure it is going to be a very unexpected race on race strategy and other things. On fuel it is going to be challenging, but it is not the only track that has its fuel limitations, so that is nothing we haven’t experienced before. Tyres, brakes, high altitude will be factors on Sunday.”
Sergey Sirotkin: ”It was a busy Friday. We had an interesting morning where we went through a couple of interesting things. I don’t think they gave us any performance, but it was good to get the experience. In the afternoon we switched to long runs with high fuel. Performance wise, it was tough, which was not a surprise for us. Ahead of tomorrow we have a few things to optimise but we ran some productive tests, so we should be happy with that. All in all, a tough but reasonable Friday.”
Nico Hulkenberg: “The car felt good today, in line with our expectations for balance and feeling. It was a pleasant surprise to see how quick we were especially for a Friday. Tyre degradation is obviously something we’re looking at for the race as the Hypersoft gives good pace, but that performance doesn’t last. We have a few set-up areas to work on, so there’s potential for more to come tomorrow.”
Carlos Sainz: “It’s always a great feeling to take to the track in Mexico and that feeling is even better if your lap times look good relative to the opposition, even though the third places just have a symbolic value! It was a good Friday in general, with some testing in the morning and a strong programme in the afternoon that we managed to complete without any issues. Tyre understanding and management will be crucial for Sunday, so that is one of the main things to analyse. We are looking forward to tomorrow.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director: “We showed good performance on single-lap runs and showed strong pace on the long runs with both drivers. We completed our programmes without any issue, including aerodynamic tests for correlation. Tyre management is a real focal point at this track, with the added challenge of temperature and weather changes forecast for tomorrow. Today’s performance was nevertheless promising for the rest of the weekend.”
Brendon Hartley: “It was a really positive Friday for us. To be in the top 10 in both sessions and to finish P6 this afternoon was great! I enjoy coming to this track, I’ve raced here a few times before and it’s my second visit in a Formula 1 car. We did a lot of testing on the new aero kit. I really think it suits my driving style so today it felt like we started getting the car closer and closer to what I want. It’s great to come out punching after a few really good races for me, and I’m feeling good about the weekend so far.”
Pierre Gasly: “Today wasn’t an easy day. The engine change in FP1 meant I couldn’t run much in the morning, which affected the preparation for this afternoon’s session. As for FP2, it wasn’t a very clean session due to the traffic and a few drivability issues, so we have quite a lot to do tonight to get ready for tomorrow. Due to the penalty on Sunday, we will have to start from the back of the grid, so our main focus will be on the race pace. I’m still positive though, because even if it makes my life more difficult here, it’s a strategic move for the remaining two races of the season.”
Romain Grosjean: “Not an easy day to find the balance of the car and getting the tires to work. The hypersofts weren’t having a good time. We were suffering, as well, with the cooling and the altitude. There’s a lot to work on with the car. It wasn’t the performance we were expecting. I think the order is a bit surprising – the Renaults are very competitive, as was the Toro Rosso of (Brendon) Hartley, and Ferrari were a bit behind. There’s a lot of work to be done tonight. Hopefully, it’ll be a better day tomorrow. The exciting part is it looks like we’ll have more than one stop in the race.”
Kevin Magnussen: “It wasn’t a good day. We didn’t learn too much. The tires were just not working at all. We’ll see what we can do on the tire side to get them into the window tomorrow. They weren’t working on low fuel or on high fuel. We’re looking for answers. We’ll have to think hard and come up with some ideas for tomorrow. I didn’t get my first lap in. I had to try again, but the tires had already died by then. It’s not as bad as it looks. It’s just frustrating when you want to go racing and you’re sliding around like crazy and the car isn’t behaving as you expected. We’ll see what we can do for tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner: “Not our best FP1 and FP2 sessions of the season. We were struggling with getting the tires to work, to get them into their working range. There needs to be a lot of thinking happening tonight. Hopefully, we come out better tomorrow. I’m sure our guys will come up with some solutions. At the moment, the chance of rain is high. Maybe we’ll do all this work for nothing. Not a fantastic day, though.”
Fernando Alonso: “It’s always a pleasure to come and race on this unique track, with low air density, fast straights and little grip. We had good feelings today. In FP2 we were testing different things that we carried on from FP1, and obviously the biggest issue was the tyres. There seems to be quite high degradation, so we wanted to check both compounds – also because there might be some rain tomorrow. We have gathered good information.
“This is the kind of circuit where you need to adapt to a lot of things. It’s mechanically very demanding because of the engine and brake temperatures, so all in all we had an important day of testing.
“It’s difficult to guess where we’ll be tomorrow and on Sunday, because the Hypersoft tyre only gives you one lap. Some of the top guys today on that lap maybe had traffic or a lock-up and didn’t put the lap together, which I think they will do tomorrow, so the pecking order will be more ‘normal’.
“The Stadium is a unique part of the circuit, possibly not made for F1 cars, because it’s too slow and maintaining the tyre temperature there is the main thing to get a good Sector. But, you feel the warm atmosphere there, with 80 per cent of the grandstands full on a Friday. It’s impressive!”
Stoffel Vandoorne: “It was a reasonable Friday. I think for everyone the talking point was probably the tyres today. It was important for us to be on track and see the long runs, and we split the tyre compounds between us to see the degradation. I think everyone’s been struggling with it a lot today.
“It’s a very slippery track to start on too and there’s a lot of evolution, so we’ll see how that goes. Actually, for us I think it would be a good thing if it’s like that on Sunday – it would definitely make the race more entertaining.
“It’s hard to tell where we are in the competitive order as the field is actually very tight. The Red Bulls are definitely a step ahead but behind them it seems very close, so if we figure a few things out on our side and gain a little bit of performance we might be in for something good. The most important thing is going to be managing the tyres, and that’s going to be the biggest chance to score points here.”
Lando Norris: “Overall, FP1 was a tricky session. It’s my first time here in Mexico City. The session was a combination of a lot of tyre degradation and a dirty track, which made the car really difficult to drive, so it was quite easy to make mistakes.
“I had some lock-ups here and there, but overall we got through the run plan that we needed to do, and I think I gave myself a good feeling of the car and the track. That’s the main thing for me, so that when I come back here next year I feel more confident straight away.
“In terms of driving the car, it was very tricky – the lowest downforce I have driven on. It was good to experience something different again, and in terms of my learning it was a productive session.”
Marcus Ericsson: “It was a difficult first day here in Mexico. I struggled with the balance of the car, as well as with the tyres, and did not feel great driving. We have a lot of work ahead of us to understand how we can improve for tomorrow. The track is a challenging one, especially with the altitude where we are located, so we will push hard to come back fighting for good results tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc: “I completed one practice session today, getting into my car for FP2. It was quite a difficult session, and we have a lot of work to do for tomorrow. I hope that we will be able to make the step we usually do from Friday to Saturday, so that we can improve our performance on this track.”
Antonio Giovinazzi: “It was a challenging session, as the track was quite dirty and there was not much grip. We ran on the hypersoft compound, so the degradation was high as well, which made it even more tricky. In the end it was still a good session and the lap times were alright. I am happy with the work we have done and my focus remains on working with the team for the remainder of the season.”
Mario Isola, head of car racing: ”It was quite a tricky day to interpret , although in many ways a bit similar to what we saw in Mexico last year . Today, there was high degradation on the hypersoft in free practice, which is of course two steps softer than the softest compound we brought to Mexico in 2017 (ultrasoft).If this continues throughout the weekend, it will influence qualifying strategy, with some teams perhaps choosing to prioritise durability over outright pace, and a few different strategies presenting themselves for the race . A lot more data analysis is needed tonight and FP3 to fully understand the situation. There’s a chance of rain on Saturday night, which would obviously ‘reset’ the track and wash away the rubber that’s been deposited so far. In any case, it already promises to be a great fight over the rest of the weekend.”