FP2: Vettel on top as Verstappen splits Ferraris in Mexico
Sebastian Vettel left all but the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in his wake at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, as he set the fastest time for Ferrari in a tricky second practice punctuated by a red flag. Team mate Charles Leclerc took P3 ahead of the Mercedes duo, the top five separated by nearly a second.
Vettel set his fastest time of 1m 16.607s on soft tyres this time, having used mediums to go sixth in FP1 earlier on Friday. Soft-shod Verstappen took P2 in his FP2 qualifying simulation, just 0.115s behind the Ferrari frontrunner – but the soft tyres’ advantage quickly faded away in tough conditions.
It was Verstappen’s team mate who caused the red flag, Alex Albon catching the inside kerb at Turn 7 and crashing into the barriers at the beginning of that challenging sequence of esses.
Albon wasn’t the only one to struggle with the shortage of grip – caused by the inherent lack of downforce in Mexico City and the recently rained-on surface – as Ferrari’s Leclerc was one of many to spin at Turn 1, the likes of Valtteri Bottas doing the same at Turn 11.
Leclerc recovered from his spin to continue his programme, ending up 0.465s off his team mate – but two-tenths faster than fourth-place Bottas. Bookending his session with plumes of tyre smoke, the Monegasque spun again on his final lap through those recalcitrant esses.
Mercedes’ struggles were evident, both during the qualifying simulation as Lewis Hamilton finished 0.963s off the pace in fifth – and lost half a second to Vettel in Sector 1 alone – but also during race runs when Ferrari and Verstappen showed superior pace.
Continuing their charge from FP1 were the Toro Rossos in sixth and seventh, led by Daniil Kvyat who set a time within two-tenths of Hamilton’s, Pierre Gasly following his team mate closely.
McLaren weren’t far behind either as Carlos Sainz took P8 and his team mate Lando Norris finishing 10th, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg splitting the papaya-coloured cars. His team mate Daniel Ricciardo was 13th, but the two Renaults were only a tenth apart by the end of FP2.
Lance Stroll wasted no time in making up for his FP1 crash to finish 11th for Racing Point, team mate Sergio Perez finishing just 0.004s slower in P12.
With 46 laps under his belt, Alfa Romeo’s 16th-place driver Antonio Giovinazzi covered the most distance and finished just behind Romain Grosjean, the Alfas and Haas finishing in sequence from Kimi Raikkonen in 14th and Kevin Magnussen in 17th.
Rounding out the standings were the Williams, George Russell ahead of team mate Robert Kubica, who sat out FP1 for Nicholas Latifi to take the wheel.
Last on the timesheets was Albon, who cut a disappointed figure as he walked away from his stricken Red Bull just 15 minutes into the session.