What the teams said – Friday in Mexico
A solid day's work for the Scuderia. Leclerc looked the quicker of the team mates in FP1, but while he was fast, he was also erratic, locking up and running wide. Roll on FP2 and this time it was Vettel who looked more comfortable in his Prancing Horse, finishing with a comfortable margin to his team mate. Leclerc managed to spin twice, including a big tank-slapper after the chequered flag had been waved. If he can nail a mistake-free lap, it could be very close between the two tomorrow.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:18.218, P6; FP2: 1:16.607, P1
"This morning I was the gardener of Turn 1, in terms of going through the grass. I like mowing the lawn and I did it this morning a couple of times but didn't need to do it again in the afternoon, since I was able to find the rhythm and everything went smoothly from then on.
"Charles and I split the work today. I did most of the work on the Medium tyre, which was ok. We don’t look that bad, but I don’t have the full picture yet. I did only two laps on new Softs so it’s difficult to say, but I don’t think I had the worst tyre today for the long runs.
"However there are still some areas where we can improve tomorrow in terms of the general balance and the feeling I have with the car. Max (Verstappen) looks strong, but all the three top teams are very close, so let’s see what tomorrow brings."
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:17.446, P2; FP2: 1:17.072, P3
"It was a positive Friday for us as a team. Our qualifying performance was good and the car looks quite competitive here.
"For me, FP1 was good while FP2 turned out to be more tricky. I struggled a bit with the car balance and there are still some improvements I want to make in my driving. In general, the grip is rather poor on this track because we find ourselves at such a high altitude and the downforce is not as efficient as it is at other tracks.
"To win this race, you have to get a good start and keep the lead well into turn 1. Being behind someone is a disadvantage here because of the cooling issues everyone faces, so having a strong qualifying result will be a key factor. Our competitors are strong and we will see where we really stand tomorrow, but we are confident of our potential and ready to give it our all once again."
Red Bull regard this race as one of their best opportunities of the season, but on early showing they looked to be lacking pace. Once the track dried in the afternoon, Verstappen showed why he is a force to be reckoned with here, getting within one tenth of Vettel's leading time. But Albon rather blotted his copybook when he caught too much kerb and spun into the barriers, ending his session prematurely.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:17.461, P3; FP2: 1:16.722, P2
“Today was a pretty positive day. We tested quite a few bits on the car, improved throughout the day and in the end I was quite pleased with the balance. There are of course things still to be improved but you can’t complain when you are purple in sectors two and three. I don’t think we can realistically fight Ferrari for pole as they are just too quick on the straights and there are not enough corners to make up the difference but we seem to be in the same speed range on the long runs. Now we just have to focus on the race where our pace looks more competitive and if we can keep our tyres under control then I think it will be a close race.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:17.949, P4; FP2: 1:21.665, P20
“This is my first time driving at this circuit and I’m enjoying it. I think it’s a good track and the stadium section is cool, but obviously today has not been the best day. FP1 was ok. The car felt good straightaway and I was happy with the balance, but in FP2 I just went a bit wide on the kerbs and lost the rear. Once these cars snap, they snap quickly and that was that. It was a silly mistake and I paid the price. We missed a good chunk of running so we’ll need to make that back up tomorrow but we’ll be ready for FP3 and that’s the main thing. Max showed the car is quick in the long runs and now it’s just about fine tuning for qualifying where we expect the Ferraris to be very strong. FP3 will be about rebuilding confidence and getting back into a rhythm but the conditions might be different with rain which could make things interesting.”
It was a mixed day for Mercedes, with portents not looking particularly rosy despite finishing on top of the pile in FP1. That came courtesy of Hamilton, but with Ferrari not setting representative lap times on the soft tyre, there was always a feeling second practice would show a clearer picture. And so it did, with the Silver Arrows well off the pace of their Scuderia rivals, and Verstappen quicker than them too. Bottas did have an impressive spin but kept his W10 out of the barriers and bar that, looked the quicker of the two drivers.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:17.327, P1; FP2: 1:17.570, P5
"It's not been a great day, but this is how it usually is for us in Mexico. We've not had any major dramas today, it's just trying to understand the tyres. From the short run to the long run and with changing track temperatures, it's hard to pinpoint how exactly to get these tyres working, but that's the name of the game. The car felt quite good in FP1, but then we made some changes for FP2 and the track shifted a little bit in terms of grip levels and temperatures and we didn't really get the set-up quite perfect and I didn't get a perfect lap in either, so there's definitely more to come. We'll be studying that tonight, seeing where we can improve for tomorrow and Sunday."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:18.005, P5; FP2: 1:17.221, P4
"It was not the easiest day for us; the track felt very slippery and I was struggling with the balance of the car in the first session. We made some improvements for FP2 and the balance felt a lot better afterwards, but we were still lacking a bit of grip. Both Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be strong on this track, but there's still a lot of things we can improve for the weekend. The softer compounds suffer quite a bit on this tarmac; it was pretty bad last year, but we made some improvements so that this year I was actually able to get a few laps in of the Softs. However, the Hard tyre I ran in the end was pretty solid and more consistent - it makes it quite interesting as we might see a lot of different strategies on Sunday."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It's been an interesting day. We didn't really know what to expect coming here, it had been our worst race last year so we have spent a bit of time trying to understand the issues from 2018. Our pace in the first session looked ok but we seem to have slipped backwards a bit going into the second session. We've already got a few ideas as to where we may have taken a wrong turn but it's both single-lap pace and long run degradation that we need to improve. We need to get the car sorted before we can start talking about what we can achieve in qualifying and the race - it's all interesting stuff from an engineering point of view, so we'll be getting our heads together tonight and see if we can make some progress."
Toro Rosso had a very impressive day at the office. In first practice both drivers complained about the set-up of their respective STR14 cars, but despite not being totally happy, still put in impressive lap times. Then in FP2, with some small alterations made, those top 10 positions were traded for 'best of the rest' slots. But can they maintain this form into tomorrow's qualifying?
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:18.835, P9; FP2: 1:17.747, P6
“It was a positive Friday. We completed our programme for both the sessions so now we have plenty of data to analyse to be ready for qualifying and the race. Today the feeling with the car was good but we need to keep on working to understand the track better and maximise our performance for the rest of the weekend.”
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:18.593, P8; FP2: 1:18.003, P7
“It was a really good Friday! From the very beginning I felt pretty comfortable in the car and I think we made quite a step from FP1 to FP2, especially on the medium tyres where we were fast throughout the whole session. Unfortunately, we were not able to improve on the softs because of small driveability issues, but we know that the pace is there and I’m confident we still have margin for improvement. Overall, it looks really promising here and we’ll work hard tonight to keep the pace and show an even better performance tomorrow.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“The altitude of the Mexican circuit and the lack of air put a huge strain on the cooling of the car, so we brought a number of new parts here to cope with these particular conditions and they seemed to perform well. The track started damp after the overnight rain so the run on dry tyres in the first 40 mins was difficult for the drivers, compounded by the lack of downforce from the low ambient pressure. We had a few aero and mechanical tests planned for FP1 but, due to the long red flag for barrier repairs at the last corner, we didn’t get to complete the entire plan. Instead, we focused on giving the drivers as many laps as possible and tuning the balance of the cars. The prime tyre performed well in those track conditions, while we could see the option graining heavily on other cars.
"Low speed rear support was the main issue, so we made a number of changes for FP2 to address this limitation. The changes worked well and both drivers felt confident with the car, which was reflected in the lap times. There is still more to come on the short run – the balance was a good improvement over FP1, but it was still not perfect. Graining was the main limitation on the long runs and it was evident on all three compounds. There is a lot for us to look at tonight in order to decide what’s the best strategy for the Race. In summary, it was a very positive day for the team – operationally everything was smooth and the performance is maybe higher than we expected, so we will aim to maintain this level forwards to quali and the race.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“In today’s two sessions, we focussed on settings based on the fact this circuit is at high altitude. Overall, things went smoothly on the PU side but there is still some fine tuning needed to be at our best, so we will work on that overnight. Although it’s only Friday, it’s encouraging to see all four cars in the top ten in FP1 and three of them in excellent positions in FP2. We hope to keep this momentum going over the next two days.”
Norris has been pushing his team mate hard for most of the season, but today Sainz started to pull away, looking solid top 10 material. The Spaniard was another driver to turn his technologically-advanced car into a lawn mower, running straight on at Turn 1 but doing no lasting damage to his MCL34. Now it is a case of consolidating for the McLaren team, and working out how to catch the Toro Rossos ahead.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:18.401, P7; FP2: 1:18.079, P8
“I think it’s been another solid Friday, not finishing off in the best way with a scrappy lap on the Soft tyre in FP2 but, overall, I felt comfortable with the car and comfortable with the set up.
"We haven’t made massive changes throughout the day and we completed our run plan, so that’s good news. Still, it looks like the big thing this weekend is going to be tyre graining and how to manage it. We’ll analyse the data gathered and get ready for tomorrow.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:19.299, P14; FP2: 1:18.349, P10
“It was an okay kind of a day. I struggled with locking into Turn 1 and we’ve had a few niggles with the car. Things were better in FP2 and especially near the end of the session.
“The main thing is that there are clear points for the team and I to work on. There’s plenty of work for us to do overnight but I’m sure we’ll come back stronger tomorrow.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director
“Racing in Mexico City is very interesting because it poses unique challenges associated with the low air density. It’s challenging for cooling the power unit and the brakes, and it’s challenging because there’s significantly less downforce available here than anywhere else. Aside from these traditional issues at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, we’re also challenged – perhaps even more so than last year – by tyre behaviour, with graining common across the field.
“During Friday’s sessions it was therefore important to work on the cooling package, on the handling of a low-downforce car and on improving our understanding of the tyres. The team did good work and we’ve gathered a lot of data to study tonight. In terms of performance, we’re pretty much in line with where we’ve been in previous races, and I’m hoping for a clean qualifying session tomorrow and good points on Sunday.”
Both Renault drivers had moments at Turn 1, locking up and flat-spotting their tyres. That aside, Hulkenberg looked the pick of the two team mates, and could be a contender for Q3 tomorrow. As for Ricciardo, he was uncustomarily off the pace and clearly not as comfortable in his R.S.19 at a track that hasn't been kind to him in the last two seasons.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:19.011, P11; FP2: 1:18.261, P9
“Today was quite reasonable for us. The sessions felt a little short with the red flags and our programme of running slightly later, but we got through what we needed to do and the car felt good from the get go this morning. The Soft is a challenging tyre and it’s quite similar to last year with graining an obvious problem. It’s quite difficult to manage but you do what you can out there. I felt comfortable in the car so, overall, a decent Friday and a solid start to the weekend.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:19.499, P15; FP2: 1:18.380, P13
“We struggled a bit today for balance on the car. I wasn’t that comfortable this morning, we did make some small improvements and some progress this afternoon, but there’s still a lot more to do. It’s not where we want to be at this stage. We still have a bit to gain, so we’ll see what else we have in the pocket overnight and into tomorrow.”
Rémi Taffin, Engine Technical Director
“We got through the majority of the programme today. With the high altitude here, one of the principal concerns is cooling and we didn’t have any issues with it, either on the engine or on the chassis. With no issues with reliability we were able to do enough laps to gauge performance. This morning it was a little hard to get going, but we made some changes before the second session and the car seemed to behave better. We missed a little evaluation of the medium tyre runs as both drivers flat spotted on their fastest lap, but we have a good basis to go forward this weekend. We know there is still work to do to get the car exactly as the drivers want and we can extract more, but we’ll look at everything tonight to see where we can improve."
The team in pink opted not to run the soft compound tyre in FP1 and thus finished well down the field. They did manage an impressive rebuild though, after Stroll spun into the barriers towards the end of the morning session. Roll on the afternoon and both drivers look on the fringes of the top 10, with Perez's tyre wear on the longer runs also looking impressive. What can the Mexican deliver at his home race?
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:19.717, P17; FP2: 1:18.366, P12
“It wasn’t the easiest first session for me and we had a few small issues, but things improved in the afternoon and we made some progress. I still think there is more to come and that we can find a few tenths this evening to help us over a single lap. All the teams in the middle of the grid are very close so it’s going to be a very tight grid. We looked pretty strong during the race simulations and we have tried all the tyre compounds. I think we are in good shape and have all the information to help us make the right decisions tonight.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:19.679, P16; FP2: 1:18.362, P11
“We had a solid day today. I was looking for the limits in the first session and just went over them. I thought I was going to be stuck in the barrier, but I managed to get out and get the car back. Well done to the team for fixing it so quickly because we even managed to get out again for a long run at the end of the morning session. I feel pretty positive overall and I think we can have a competitive weekend. Tyre management is going to be very important and tyre graining could be an issue in the race. That could open up some different strategy options on Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“We made steady progress throughout the day and both drivers are generally happy with the car during the long runs. There is work to be done on the performance runs ahead of qualifying, which will be the focus tomorrow morning. We’ve covered a good amount of laps  and done our homework on the tyre compounds. The main challenge here is getting the tyres to work through the low-speed corners without too much graining.”
Haas haven't tended to go well here and based on today's showing, that doesn't look set to change. Both drivers struggled with their tyres, with degradation a bigger issue for the American outfit than other teams. Lacking single lap pace to boot, can they turn it around before tomorrow?
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:19.850, P18; FP2: 1:18.766, P15
“It’s not been an easy day, but we always know Mexico is a challenging track, the high altitude makes everything more on the edge. We’ve worked as hard as we could, but I guess we’re facing the same issues as everyone else in terms of trying to keep the tyres alive. It’s been very hard. We were ready for a tough weekend, we won’t give up, we’ll be trying everything we can through to the chequered flag.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:19.013, P12; FP2: 1:19.306, P17
“It’s a unique track with the low downforce and thin air. Our tyres haven’t been working and it’s been cold. It’s pretty difficult, but it’s difficult for everyone. We haven’t looked quick today but the midfield’s very tight. It wouldn’t take much to put us back somewhere in the middle. There’s more emphasis on the race this time because it’s high-wear on the tyres. There’s more strategy things to look at, it’s not just a clear one-stop. That’s going to be interesting and we’ll look a bit more towards that.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“I would say it wasn’t a very spectacular Friday for us. In the morning, with the track being wet at the beginning, it took a little bit of time to get it to the condition where we could learn something. We always know Mexico isn’t our strongest point because of the downforce we’re missing, you feel it here more than anywhere else because of the altitude. It wasn’t too bad and we’ll just keep on working trying to get the best out of the weekend.”
Giovinazzi's car was sprayed with flow-vis in FP1 as the team set about data gathering. The Italian was back at it in second practice, compiling a huge number of laps on his longer runs. That didn't translate into raw pace though, and included two very big lock ups into Turn 1. As for Raikkonen, he too ran wide on occasion but other than that had a quiet day.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:19.205, P13; FP2: 1:18.681, P14
“It wasn’t very easy to find the grip out on track, but it has always been like this here in Mexico. The altitude obviously affects the handling of the car and the surface of the track is quite dirty, as I don’t think the circuit really gets used much apart from us. We had a busy Friday, we focused on our programme and now we will need to get the best possible car ready for tomorrow.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:18.959, P10; FP2: 1:18.889, P16
“It’s been a tricky Friday. The track was very difficult, especially in FP1, and there was very little grip. We struggled a bit in FP2 but my qualifying run was not the best, so the times are not really representative. We did a lot of laps on high fuel to understand how the tyres behave, but the real picture of where we stand will only appear tomorrow. It’s important to get a good qualifying position here so that’s what we will focus on now, then we will see what happens.”
Kubica sat out FP1 in favour of Latifi, who ran aero rakes for much of the session on a fact-finding mission for the team. Once restored to his seat, the Pole was quiet but efficient, keeping his nose clean in tricky conditions. As for Russell, he struggled with tyre wear but nonetheless got to grips with the track and managed to beat his team mate home.
Robert Kubica -FP2: 1:20.180, P19
"It wasn’t an easy afternoon, as the conditions plus the high altitude mean that we lose quite a lot of downforce. It is the same for everyone as we cannot change the altitude, so there is a lot of sliding. We hope to find some improvements in order to slide less, which will make life easier for the tyres and hopefully we will pick up a bit of pace."
George Russell - FP1: 1:20.548, P19; FP2: 1:19.968, P18
"With 25 percent less downforce than every other circuit because of the altitude, there was a lot of sliding around but it was definitely a cool experience driving in front of the baseball stadium. There were a few positives to take away from today; our high fuel pace seemed relatively good and we gathered some more data this morning back-to-backing the front wings, so that was encouraging."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:21.566, P20
"It was nice to be back behind the wheel, after my last outing at Spa as it feels like a long time. After my experience driving here last year, I knew that the track has very low grip due to the high altitude. It was a very busy session, I ran a completely different programme to George, we got a lot done and the team was happy with the data that we gathered. My goal for the FP1 sessions remains the same; to get as much information for the team going into FP2. It is never to get the fastest lap time, however, as a driver you try and do that to show the team what you can do. It was a good experience driving the car again with no big mistakes, everything was clean, so I am pleased with the session."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"Following overnight rain, FP1 began with a damp track in cool conditions. As a result, conditions were difficult for both George and Nicholas. We were able to gather more valuable data from the new front wing before we embarked on our normal FP1 programme. The altitude in Mexico makes managing the car’s quite difficult but, with both cars running different programmes, we were able to complete several useful tests which will help us on Sunday.
"Nicholas did a very good job in difficult conditions and provided us with some valuable feedback on the car performance. He ran an older specification of floor and front wing, which compromised his laptime but nonetheless his comments were extremely insightful and useful.
"The track was warmer in FP2 and this changed the tyre behaviour for the better. Robert was back in his car and was soon up to speed and on top of the peculiarities of Mexico. Our long runs were compromised a little by running in traffic but, overall, we were happier with the car at high fuel and we understand what we need to do overnight to improve the car further for the race."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"The gaps seem to be reasonably close between the top cars on the same tyre, accentuated by the relatively short lap length and the fact that the running has been interrupted today. This meant that nobody really had the chance to find any particular advantage. With more rain possibly expected tonight, the grip might not significantly improve tomorrow. The graining we saw this morning was no real surprise given the cool and damp conditions combined with the lack of aerodynamic grip, which meant that the cars were sliding more than usual. Despite this, the actual lap times were comparable to last year – and with a harder tyre selection. There's clearly some degradation on the soft at the moment in particular, but a lot will depend on the eventual weather conditions for race day. Plenty for the teams and drivers to think about overnight, as starting the race on the medium tyre could be a valid strategy this weekend."