Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo confirmed their morning running order in the Mexican GP’s second free practice session.
Both Red Bull drivers enjoyed a comfortable margin over their rivals, but the fastest car behind the bulls was once again the fast moving Carlos Sainz, confirming the impressive form of the Renault-powered cars in Mexico City.
It wasn’t all clear sailing for Verstappen however whose RB14 stopped out on the track in the closing minutes of the session with a suspected hydraulic failure.
2018 Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
The second free practice session of the day saw Fernando Alonso, Esteban Ocon and Charles Leclerc return to work as they took over from their junior substitutes.
Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly was the first driver to hit the track, at least for an installation lap, the Frenchman only enjoying limited running in the morning as his crew spent for of the session working on his STR13.
Kimi Raikkonen was the first man to post a relevant time, clocking in with a 1m20.024s. Team mate Sebastian Vettel appeared to frequently battle the rear end of his SF71-H, especially on the entry to the stadium section.
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With track temperatures reaching a scorching 47 degrees Celsius in the afternoon, drivers were obviously attentive to tyre wear and to how many laps they could extract from the various compounds.
Vettel overhauled Raikkonen at the top but Max Verstappen quickly edged the German, his Red Bull shod with Pirelli’s ultrasoft rubber, followed by fellow bull Daniel Ricciardo as the pair re-established the running order from FP1.
Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton took to the track but proceed to mow a partial of grass as he locked up at Turn 1 and ran wide.
Vettel – switching to the softer hypersoft runner – made an attempt to tackle the front-runners, but to no avail as a messy final sector resulted in lost time.
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Confirming Renault’s impressive form in FP1, Carlos Sainz approached Verstappen’s pace as he grabbed P2 from Vettel. But the Dutchman kept up the momentum flowing, laying down a stunning 1m16.720s lap on the hypersofts that put him 1.233s clear of the next fastest driver!
In the Mercedes camp, both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were well down the order – by Silver Arrows standards, with the Brit barking over the radio to engineer Bono that “something was not right with the car”. A lot of head scratching going on in the Silver Arrows garage.
Ten minutes from the conclusion of the session, drama ensued over at Red Bull when pacesetter Verstappen pulled off to the side of the track, apparently the victim of a complete power shut down.
Running in rarefied air in Mexico City has the ability to equal performance, but altitude and hot temperatures can also wreak havoc on an engine’s cooling.
Fortunately, an initial diagnosis of Verstappen’s issue concluded to a hydraulic problem, with the Red Bull driver’s power unit spared any damage, and the prospect of a costly engine change.
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