RACE DEBRIEF

    A delighted home crowd watched as local hero Sergio Perez gave himself a confidence boost ahead of qualifying for the Mexico City Grand Prix, going fastest in Free Practice 3 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez ahead of red Bull team mate Max Verstappen – the pair over half a second clear of their rivals Mercedes.

    It was a tentative start to FP3, the drivers wary of oil on the track that had been cleaned up ahead of the session, with many opting to stay in their garages for the first quarter of an hour.

    Once out, however, and circulating on soft tyres, it was Verstappen who set the early pace, having sat out the first 30 minutes of the session, his early benchmark a 1m 17.217s.

    But the crowd then rose to their feet as Verstappen’s team mate Perez – in his first home weekend for Red Bull – clocked the leading time of 1m 17.024s with five minutes of the session remaining, to finished 0.193s up on his team mate.

    FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE LA CIUDAD DE MÉXICO 2021

    Mexico 2021

    Practice 3 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing 1:17.024
    2 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing +0.193s
    3 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes +0.651s
    4 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes +0.684s
    5 Carlos Sainz SAI Ferrari +1.005s

    Verstappen attempted a final effort on new soft tyres in the dying moments of the session, but couldn’t get the tyres in the sweet spot, failing to improve and having to accept P2.

    That won’t bother him unduly – but it was an unhappy Mercedes team after FP3, with Lewis Hamilton their leading driver in P3, but a full 0.651s adrift of Perez, with Valtteri Bottas narrowly behind his team mate in P4.

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    Carlos Sainz impressed to take P5, the Spaniard just over a second off Perez’s pace, while Yuki Tsunoda was P6 for AlphaTauri – although Tsunoda will be one of four drivers confirmed for a back-of-the-grid start, joining Lando Norris, Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon, while George Russell will also have a five-place penalty for a gearbox change.

    Behind Tsunoda, Daniel Ricciardo was P7 for McLaren, ahead of Pierre Gasly, with Charles Leclerc overcoming a spin at the exit of Turn 3 to take P9, ahead of Norris.

    FP3 Highlights: 2021 Mexican Grand Prix

    Stroll was 11th, leading the Alfa Romeo pair of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, as Sebastian Vettel took P14 in the second Aston Martin.

    It was a lacklustre session for Alpine, Fernando Alonso and Ocon finding themselves 15th and 16th ahead of qualifying, ahead only of Russell, Haas’ Mick Schumacher, Nicholas Latifi and the P20-placed Nikita Mazepin in the second Haas.

    So it’s decidedly advantage Red Bull ahead of qualifying in Mexico. The team have been fastest in quali at the track at the last two Grands Prix here – but can they make it three in a row in 2021?