Mexican GP 2016

OCTOBER 28, 2016

Practice 1 Report - A whole big party

Lewis Hamilton, Mexican GP 2016
© Active Pictures


By Dan Knutson in Mexico City

Fans and drivers alike were keenly anticipating the second edition of the modern day Mexican Grand Prix. And this was especially true for Mexican drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez.

"It's an incredible feeling to be here and see how all the people are excited," Gutierrez said prior to the first practice session. "I feel honored to be able to share this great weekend, this great moment, with all the people that are going to be here supporting us - family, friends, fans - it's just an incredible feeling. It feels like a whole big party through the whole weekend."

Perez had been looking forward to his home race for a whole year.

"As soon as I arrived here on Tuesday for an event, I can see all the energy from all the people is getting bigger," he noted. "Formula 1 is getting bigger, it's growing.

"They always say that racing at home is an extra two tenths that you have on you. There really is, because the energy that I feel throughout the weekend is just phenomenal and I'm sure that this weekend will be a lot of that and I will be there to give them my best."

The best driver at the end of the FP1 party was Lewis Hamilton in his Mercedes.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Centigrade.) There was a 10 percent chance of rain.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

Palmer and Grosjean were the first out on the 2.674-mile (4.304 km) 17-turn circuit. While the track had aged a year and therefore would offer improved grip compared to the inaugural 2015 race, the surface was plenty dusty and slippery. So the drivers did their installation laps and headed to the garages to wait.

Ocon set the first recorded time - a 1:28.842 - 15 minutes into the session. Alonso soon beat that with a 1:26.398.

"The main story so far is low grip. Just a question of running as much as possible to lay rubber down and generate as much heat as possible," Pirelli tweeted.

Pirelli offered its super soft, soft and medium compound slicks for the weekend.

The fastest time in FP1 a year ago was a 1:25.990 clocked by Verstappen in his Toro Rosso. It didn't take long for that time to get beaten as Bottas turned a 1:24.337.

Then Rosberg, on the soft compound Pirellis, slammed in a 1:22.748. Hamilton crossed the line moments later with a time of 1:23.802. But then Hamilton, also on the softs, improved to a 1:21.936 to grab first place. He improved that to a 1:21.633. Rosberg would get down to a 1:21.846.

Red flags stopped the session when it was 32 minutes old. Nasr had bounded over the ribbed curbs, and moments later his right front wing shattered. Carbon fiber debris littered the track.

"It exploded, basically," radioed Ricciardo.

The top 10 at this stage were: Hamilton, Rosberg, Perez, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Vettel, Sainz, Massa and Kvyat.

It took the marshals 10 minutes to clean up the mess, and then the session restarted.

As the grip out on the track improved, so did the lap times. Hamilton did a 1:21.527 on the medium tires. Rosberg's new time put him within 0.146 of his teammate. Bottas improved to move into third place ahead of Massa who had also gone faster.

Just over 30 minutes remained in FP1 when Hamilton, still on the mediums, got down to a 1:20.914. While Hamilton stayed in front, the landscape behind him kept changing, and soon Perez was second and Hulkenberg third - both used the super soft tires.

Hamilton, Perez, Vettel, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Rosberg headed the times with 26 minutes remaining. A few minutes later, Vettel, on the soft tires, took over second place with a lap in 1:20.993.

Now most of the drivers were into their long-run programs. But others were still going faster, like Raikkonen who snatched third with a 1:21.072.

And so the first on-track event of the weekend party ended with the top 10 in the times being: Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Massa and Kvyat.