FP2: Red Bull's Verstappen fastest again before breaking down
It was all going so well for Max Verstappen. Fresh from his timesheet-topping exploits in the opening practice session on Friday, the Dutchman continued to steal the show in FP2, setting the pace ahead of team mate Daniel Ricciardo as Red Bull lapped considerably quicker than their rivals. But then his RB14 suffered a sudden power loss in the last 10 minutes of the session, ending his day on a sour note…
Knowing their RB14 package has the potential to flourish at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez this weekend, the Milton Keynes squad were on course for another fine practice result in Mexico City - and it was Verstappen who led the way again, finishing 0.153s quicker than Ricciardo.
But with less than 10 minutes left on the clock, Verstappen’s car suddenly ground to a halt at the end of the long pit straight, a lack of power preventing him from finishing the session. Team Principal Christian Horner later said the Dutchman's car had suffered a hydraulic issue of some sort, but it remains to be seen as to whether he'll need new power unit components, which will trigger a potentially race ruining automatic grid drop.
A positive for Verstappen was that no one bar Ricciardo could get within a second of his leading pace, with Renault’s Carlos Sainz coming closest again to secure a second successive P3 on Friday. The Spaniard was some 1.2s behind the pacesetter, and only just sneaked into the top three, finishing just 0.001s ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with the sister R.S.18 of Nico Hulkenberg coming home in fifth.
Renault's performance wasn’t the only shock of the session, with the Toro Rosso of Brendon Hartley - needing big performances with his seat under threat for 2019 - jumping into the top-six. The Kiwi finished 0.039s of Lewis Hamilton, with the Mercedes man sounding a little disheartened by the performance of his car. However, he knows as long as he finishes seventh or higher on Sunday, then a fifth world championship will be his regardless of what rival Vettel does.
He was forced to wait to seal that trophy after Kimi Raikkonen romped to a United States Grand Prix triumph last Sunday, and the Finn had a relatively quiet second session of the day, coming home in P8 ahead of the second Silver Arrow of Valtteri Bottas.
Force India's local hero Sergio Perez completed the top ten, with Esteban Ocon - who sat out FP1 for Nicholas Latifi - just behind in 11th.
Like Ocon, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso also missed FP1 – allowing Antonio Giovinazzi and Lando Norris to get important laps under their belts ahead of their rookie seasons in F1 next year – and on their return to action, they came home in 13th and 19th respectively.
Elsewhere, it was a tough afternoon for Kevin Magnussen, the Haas driver finishing 17th in the first 90 minutes of running, and he finished this practice bottom of the pile, trailing the leading Verstappen by almost 3s.
And so, Verstappen will be delighted with the pace displayed by his RB14. Having said that, the hydraulic issue suffered will no doubt be a concern for him, and he’ll be keen for Red Bull to get to the bottom of the problem before action resumes on Saturday.
Ferrari and Mercedes, meanwhile, also have some overnight work of their own to do – they couldn’t get close to the Red Bulls on Friday. But as we’ve seen throughout this season, Saturday can be a completely different story…