FP3: Verstappen leads Albon and Perez to complete practice clean sweep in Mexico City
Max Verstappen completed a practice clean sweep as he set the pace in third and final practice for the Mexico City Grand Prix, fending off the impressive Williams of Alex Albon and his Red Bull team mate Sergio Perez.
Verstappen looked hooked up around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Friday, and while it was George Russell who was quickest after the first runs on soft tyres, three-time world champion Verstappen moved back on top when the teams took out the fuel and went for a proper qualifying simulation.
He clocked a 1m 17.887s to go just 0.070s quicker than Albon, but immediately came on team radio to say he encountered a lot of traffic on his quick lap – to suggest he could have gone quicker.
Albon, though, was the star as he repeated the supreme pace he showed in FP1 with another corker of a lap to add evidence to the theory that Williams could be a real shock package this weekend.
FORMULA 1 GRAN PREMIO DE LA CIUDAD DE MÉXICO 2023
Practice 3 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:17.887|
|2 Alexander Albon ALB Williams||+0.070s|
|3 Sergio Perez PER Red Bull Racing||+0.139s|
|4 George Russell RUS Mercedes||+0.361s|
|5 Oscar Piastri PIA McLaren||+0.505s|
Home favourite Perez was very much in the mix in third, 0.139s off the pace, amid bright and sunny conditions in Mexico on a track that ramped up as the one-hour session went on courtesy of rubber going down after light rain overnight.
Russell was the leading Mercedes in fourth, the Briton telling his team on the radio that he was surprised by the lack of improvement when bolting on fresh softs and taking the fuel out of a car that looks reasonably competitive.
Oscar Piastri was just over half a second off the pace in fifth for McLaren, with Valtteri Bottas continuing his fine form this weekend with sixth for Alfa Romeo.
Yuki Tsunoda has a long weekend ahead of him, having taking a suite of new engine and gearbox parts that will confine him to the back of the grid. As a result, he spent much of the session focusing on long runs – but when he bolted on the softs for a qualifying sim with a couple of minutes to go, he popped into seventh.
Lando Norris was eighth, ahead of another impressive showing from Daniel Ricciardo to underline the AlphaTauri pace with Mercedes’ seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton closing out the top 10.
Logan Sargeant proved Williams have good speed in Mexico with the 11th fastest time ahead of Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu, the top-12 separated by just over a second.
Ferrari had a frustrating end to the session as first Charles Leclerc had to back out of his qualifying session when he encountered a slow-moving Kevin Magnussen on the racing line in the esses, then Carlos Sainz spun to take avoiding action when he encountered a slow Lance Stroll in the same spot.
It means Ferrari’s ultimate pace for qualifying is an unknown heading into qualifying with Leclerc 13th and Sainz 15th, the duo sandwiching Stroll.
Nico Hulkenberg was the best performing Haas in 16th, ahead of Fernando Alonso who has looked unusually off the pace all weekend.
Alpine also had a tough session, Pierre Gasly spinning early on when running the mediums and Esteban Ocon aborting his soft tyre run when appearing to encounter a brake problem heading into Turn 1.
They ended up 18th and 20th, with Magnussen in between, the Dane not even setting a lap time until the final 20 minutes of the session.
That’s practice done and dusted with teams having a couple of hours to tinker with their machines before the qualifying hour at 1500 local time. There have been seven different pole-sitters in as many years in Mexico. Will we see number eight in 2023?