Max Verstappen continued to set the pace in second practice for this weekends Mexican Grand Prix. The Dutchman was a tenth faster than his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, with his former teammate Carlos Sainz over a second behind in third.
However, it wasn’t an easy afternoon for Verstappen after his Red Bull ground to a halt at Turn One with a suspected hydraulics failure with eight minutes remaining. Replays showed that the Dutchman’s car lose power as he approached the corner.
The Anglo-Austrian team appeared to be in a class of their own as they set the pace by a tenth on the hypersoft tyre. Sainz outpaced the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel by a thousandth of a second, while his teammate Nico Hulkenberg was fifth.
Brendon Hartley was sixth fastest, almost four tenths faster than the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Mexico City’s high altitude offsets the advantage that Mercedes and Ferrari have, but the pace deficit to both Renault and Honda is larger than expected.
Vettel appeared the more comfortable with his car, despite experiencing high tyre degradation on his hypersoft tyre run mid-way through the session. While Hamilton appeared to struggle on both the compounds of tyres.
Hamilton can be crowned as champion on Sunday, if he is seventh or higher, regardless of where Vettel finishes. But the constructors cannot be settled this weekend.
The question remains, however unlikely, are Mercedes and Ferrari really this far off the pace. This season neither team has overcome such a deficit on Friday to win on Sunday, with Red Bull looking for a win this weekend.
But more importantly for Hartley, it will come as a boost to him as he looks to retain his seat for 2019. While the Finnish duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas were eighth and ninth, with the Mexican Sergio Perez rounding out the top ten by three tenths over teammate Esteban Ocon.
Haas’s Romain Grosjean was two and a half tenths off his fellow Frenchman, the American team appearing as they are struggling with the deficit from the Ferrari engine. His teammate Kevin Magnussen was over a second off in twentieth.
While Red Bull and Renault appeared to benefit from the Renault power, McLaren appeared not to show the same pace. Stoffel Vandoorne fifteenth half a second faster than teammate Fernando Alonso.
Williams drivers Lance Stroll sixteenth and Sergey Sirotkin eighteenth finished either side of Marcus Ericsson. Kevin Magnussen finished last, but appeared to make an error on the final sector of his qualifying simulation run on the hyper-soft tyre.