Hulkenberg plays down practice pace

In Friday’s opening session, Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg were third and fourth quickest, only out-paced by the similarly Renault-powered Red Bulls. Demonstrating that it was no fluke, the Spaniard and his German teammate were third and fifth in the second session, ahead of one Ferrari and both Mercedes.

However, Hulkenberg was keen to play down talk that the French team might be on the cusp of a major upset courtesy of Mexico City’s thin air which negates much of the Renault‘s usual power deficit.

“I think it’s a bit misleading, those time sheets,” he told reporters, “because you see Force India, you see Toro Rosso, you see Sauber particularly close to us still, half a tenth, one tenth, but then you see Ferrari and Mercedes are nowhere.

“It’s very weird how in one weekend, in the space of four days, they go from being two seconds quicker a lap to being together with us,” he admitted.

“I think I would be a bit naive to think we’re going to be third on the grid,” he smiled. “I’m always optimistic and I’m always going to try my best, but I think they had issues today. They were struggling on the long runs. I was following them and they didn’t look comfortable.

“The only reason for me to think that things are going to turn, maybe not as much, maybe we can still be half a second away from them instead of one second and a half, but it would surprise me to be ahead of them for sure.”

Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.