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What the teams said – Friday in Mexico

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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Red Bull

Perez’s home race weekend didn’t get off to the dream start when the Mexican lost the rear of his RB16B through the final corner towards the start of FP1, catching the barriers and breaking his rear wing for good measure. A lengthy spell in the garage followed, but he did eventually get back out on track. Once lapping, Perez looked quick and is certainly in the fight up front. But he’ll have some way to go if he wants to catch his team mate, with Verstappen looking in total control as it stands.

READ MORE: ‘Every time I stop I can hear them’ – Home hero Perez targeting pole position in front of ecstatic Mexican crowd

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:18.464, P3; FP2: 1:17.301, P1

“It was quite a good day for us as a team, of course we are always trying to improve and make the car better but overall, it’s looking pretty good. The track was very dirty in FP1 which made it quite difficult for us but FP2 was much better. It’s always difficult to know how we are going to perform in qualifying after Friday practice, and there are quite a few things to look at to improve performance. It’s been a positive start and we have a good feeling as a Team heading into the weekend.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:18.610, P4; FP2: 1:17.871, P4

"I think we didn’t lose that much progress today, despite the shunt in FP1. It was a shame we damaged the car and we gave a little bit of extra work to the boys in the garage but other than that incident it was a positive day. I am feeling more comfortable on the long runs than over one lap, so I think there is still the potential to improve the car on the short runs. I have one more session to work on them and my target is to be on that front row tomorrow. The margins are going to be very close in qualifying to the Mercedes but hopefully we can lock out that front row. I don’t think it has been a representative day in terms of predicting qualifying, tomorrow everything will be even closer, and it will be interesting to see how we all line up. The fans have been incredible already, it is great to look around and have so much support here, everyone is being so enthusiastic and is pushing me to go faster. Every time I stop the car, I can hear the crowd and it’s only Friday!"

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Mercedes

Mercedes got off to a good start in the first session, despite both drivers locking up and running wide. In Hamilton’s case, that led to a trip to the stewards to explain why he didn’t return to the track correctly – luckily for him, only a reprimand followed. Roll on FP2, and Mercedes had no answer for the pace of Verstappen. The good news is that the top teams have a healthy gap to the midfield this weekend. The bad news is that on first impressions, Red Bull have a healthy gap to Mercedes…

READ MORE: Hamilton admits Red Bull are ‘definitely too quick for us’ after first day in Mexico

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:18.417, P2; FP2: 1:17.810, P3

"The car's generally feeling okay and we've not had any major issues today - we're giving it everything we've got and Red Bull are just a bit quicker than us right now. We've been chipping away at the set up and trying to improve it, but you can see we are lacking a bit of overall downforce here and that shows in the lap times. It was great to see lots of people came out today, and I'm looking forward to continuing the battle this weekend."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:18.341, P1; FP2: 1:17.725, P2

"It was a tricky start to the day with low-grip conditions and the dusty track. This made it hard to get a proper read on the car but nevertheless, it felt not too far off how it should be, and that mean we could fine-tune things for FP2. This afternoon, the car felt okay but there's still time we need to find because Red Bull look quick. They seem faster than us right now, and they showed strong pace on the soft tyre on a single lap, so we need to find more time if we want to fight for pole."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"We've had a reasonable day, the first session was a bit cleaner than the second but the car and power unit seemed to be coping well with the altitude. We've stayed very much focused on our own programme for single lap and long run. It's clear there is a bit of time to find to Max on the single lap but we've got a few balance issues to fix so hopefully we can close that gap a little. The long run picture is a bit tricky because we were on different tyres to our competition but the balance is reasonable and the hard tyre seemed to be working nicely. We didn't come here expecting it to be easy and there is clearly a bit that we need to work on but compared to some of our Mexico Fridays, we've got off to a decent start."

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Ferrari

Leclerc was the first to make a mistake, spinning and damaging his rear wing through the final corner in a move copied moments later by Perez. Fortunately for the Ferrari man, he didn’t do too much damage and wasn’t overly delayed. But out on track, he did seem to struggle for grip more than his team mate, with Sainz looking comfortable from the off. The Scuderia look there or thereabouts in the top 10 – but it is too early to tell if they have the beating of rivals McLaren just yet.

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:19.667, P8; FP2: 1:18.605, P7

"It’s great to be back in Mexico City! The atmosphere here is amazing as always. Even before arriving at the track, it’s really impressive to see so many fans around town and we really appreciate everyone’s support.

"Our sessions today were quite different. In the morning, there was a lot of dust on the track, which made it quite slippery and tricky to drive, especially in terms of braking.

"The track evolution was significant between FP1 and FP2. Lap after lap, you could feel that you are getting faster. It’s still difficult to compare ourselves to the others and understand exactly where we are.

"For tomorrow, we just have to focus on putting together the best lap we can and then I am confident that we have the potential to do a good job this weekend."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:19.463, P6; FP2: 1:18.318, P5

"A challenging Friday as always here in Mexico, where the lack of grip affects the behaviour of the car a lot. We tried some changes from FP1 to FP2 which didn’t seem to work, so we came back to this morning’s set-up during the session to try and replicate the balance I had in FP1 when I was happier with it.

"Tomorrow we’ll try other alternatives to see if we can keep finding lap time and improve the overall performance of the car. Some of our competitors look very quick so it’s going to be a tight fight.

"Whenever I switch off the engine, I can hear the fans shouting loud in the grandstands. It’s been great to see so many Ferrari flags out there here in Mexico. We feel the support and we will try to put together a good weekend for everyone watching!"

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 leads Sergio Perez of Mexico driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Carlos Sainz of Spain driving the (55) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

AlphaTauri had a very good start to their weekend here, albeit one tempered by Tsunoda taking on new PU components and thus likely to be starting from the back of the grid. It’s a shame for the rookie, who looked quick in both sessions. As for his team mate, Gasly really impressed over one lap once again and looks to be in with a chance of disrupting the Ferrari-McLaren fight as he looks well placed to be ‘best of the rest’ come qualifying.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:18.985, P5; FP2: 1:18.429, P6

“I must say, I’m very happy with today. We’ve finished both sessions in the top six and there are lot of positives with the car so far, I think we can even find some more performance tomorrow. It’s really slippery out there, which doesn’t feel great, but we’re still very competitive, so I’m really pleased. Looking to the race, the tyres felt pretty good as well. We know that usually here in Mexico the track isn’t so tough on the Hards, especially compared to last time out in Austin, but we’re happy with the long-running we’ve done so far, which we now need to analyse ahead of Sunday.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:20.011, P11; FP2: 1:18.644, P8

“I’m quite happy with today, I think the balance of the car has been good and we’ve shown strong pace straight from FP1. We’ve obviously got the penalty, which means that our approach to qualifying will be slightly different, but we’ve still collected a lot of important data for the engineers to analyse tonight. Mainly my focus is on the race, more so than the one lap pace for qualifying, so I’ve done a lot of long-running today and I feel comfortable in the car so far.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“We’ve been able to hit the ground running here in Mexico, showing a good performance and completing our test plan. This weekend we needed to take a PU penalty with Yuki, so he will start from the back of the grid, therefore his focus has been on long-runs, in preparation for the race. Even so, he was still able to have an excellent short-run performance and continue building his confidence in the car. For Pierre, it was a more normal Friday plan with the focus on learning about the tyres and optimising the setup for the conditions we face this weekend. The track was very dirty and dusty in FP1, so the overall grip and balance was poor. This improved through the day, but we still didn’t reach a balance we were fully satisfied with, so there is more to find in the short-runs tomorrow. Overall, it was a solid Friday, the performance is good and we still have room to improve, so we’ll give it our all to challenge for good points on Sunday.”

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda locks a wheel under braking during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

McLaren

Ricciardo’s running was curtailed in the afternoon by a gearbox issue that limited the Australian to just seven laps in FP2. That left Norris to gather crucial data for the team which he did, although whilst doing so he certainly didn’t set the timing screens alight. But McLaren have been notorious this season for leaving the paddock guessing on a Friday, before showing their true hand come FP3. In which case, expect them to rocket up the leaderboard tomorrow.

READ MORE: Ricciardo and Russell explain issues that saw them miss most of second practice in Mexico

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:20.273, P14; FP2: 1:19.521, P15

“Unfortunately, we didn’t really get much done this afternoon. We had an issue in FP2, so we only completed the Hard run. These things happen, and we’ll just have to get into it tomorrow. We don’t have any time to waste so we’ll get amongst it. We’ve got a few challenges ahead but we’ll be alright. We got enough information from Lando today to be able to pick it up tomorrow.”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:20.301, P15; FP2: 1:18.979, P12

“A difficult day as we struggled with the balance and the overall grip level. I think we’ve found some positives between FP1 and FP2. We can be confident we’re going to make some improvements into tomorrow and find a bit more lap time. It’s not easy, so we’ll work hard overnight and see what we can find.”

Andrea Stella, Racing Director

“Today’s practice sessions showed us what we expected to see here in Mexico City. The altitude pushes us to tune several aspects of our set-up to cope with the cooling requirements and low downforce levels that are a feature of racing on this circuit. What we weren’t expecting was the need to curtail Daniel’s afternoon session. We stopped him early after seeing some markers in the data, related to his gearbox, that we thought prudent to explore.

“This leaves us with work to do to ensure we are competitive in qualifying and the race. It seems very tight this weekend with Ferrari and AlphaTauri in good shape – but we know what we have to do to meet our objectives over the next two days.”

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and McLaren F1 prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Stroll has been fitted with new PU components for this weekend, meaning a back of the grid start for the Canadian. As such, he focussed on race pace today, leaving the flying laps to his team mate. Vettel duly delivered and looked decently quick – although he did blot his copybook with a trip through the McLaren pit box, admitting he wasn’t really paying attention to where he was going to his rather amused race engineer.

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:19.858, P10; FP2: 1:18.681, P9

“It was a decent start to the weekend and it was good fun, despite the dusty and slippery conditions. I felt happy in the car and we gradually worked through the programme and built up the knowledge of the tyres. It is difficult to know exactly where we stand because the track was constantly evolving and getting quicker and quicker throughout the day. I think we have made good progress, though, and I expect it to be very close in and around the top 10. As ever, we will aim to fight for Q3, but I think all the teams have more to extract, as do we. Let's see tomorrow.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:20.030, P13; FP2: 1:19.730, P17

“As we are expecting to start towards the back of the grid due to power unit change penalties, the focus today was on the longer runs and race pace, so it was a different programme to usual. I think we have made some encouraging progress, but tonight we will go away and look into ways to improve the car. It was dusty on track early on, so FP3 tomorrow will be a useful session to learn more about the car. The goal is to make sure we are in a good place to fight our way through the field on Sunday.”

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin and Germany during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Alpine

Alpine left their flying laps late in the day in FP1, making the most of a rubbered-in track to get both cars into the top 10. They both fell back somewhat in the second session, although with fuel loads an unknown the true pecking order of the midfield won’t emerge until tomorrow.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:19.759, P9; FP2: 1:19.431, P14

“Firstly, it’s nice to be back in Mexico as the last time I raced here was in 2018. On track, we had a productive day, which we can be pleased with. The track was quite dirty in the early running, but it improved as the day grew on. It’s a different challenge to the previous race with the conditions and other factors, but that’s something we enjoy as drivers as it’s about trying things to find a good set-up. We’ve made a solid start to the weekend, which we’re looking to build on. The car felt decent across both sessions and, as always, we have work to do overnight to keep improving.”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:19.656, P7; FP2: 1:18.732, P10

“The circuit started with very low grip today because of the altitude and it was very dusty this morning too which made it feel slippery in parts of the track. The track evolution is huge which is quite obvious when you look at the times from the two practice sessions. This makes understanding any changes on the car between FP1 and FP2 very difficult. We have some work to do, but let’s see if we can find some solutions for tomorrow. It was good to be back to a relatively normal Friday for us, after a difficult one in Austin. It was also nice to see the passion of the fans here, it should be exciting tomorrow!”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“After a difficult weekend last time out in Austin, it was important for us to have a smooth and productive Friday practice here. Overall, we’ve had a decent day. This morning the track was dusty and quite low grip, but the performance started to get better and better as the track cleaned and improved. Also, for our drivers, it was good for them to grow in confidence at this circuit as the last time they raced here was in 2018. Free Practice 2 was quite an important session to understand more things with the track in much better shape. We did a good job and we collected a lot of information on both cars, which we will use to find improvements ahead of tomorrow. On a personal level, it’s nice to be back in Mexico City. In fact, the last time I was here was for world superbikes in 1993 when the race was actually cancelled due to some interesting disturbances on track! I can say the track has certainly improved in that time into a fantastic facility.”

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Alpine A521 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Raikkonen had a trip to the stewards after FP1 for not joining the track correctly after running wide, but was let off with just a telling off. His impatience then showed when he used the run off area to jump ahead of a traffic jam in what proved ultimately to be an astute move. Giovinazzi had a slightly quieter day of it, although he did have to find some rallying skills as he tracked sideways through more than one corner out there, with grip at a premium.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:20.026, P12; FP2: 1:18.841, P11

“A fairly regular Friday. Like every time we are in Mexico, the grip is not there on Friday: the track is very slippery and you’re not helped by the very little downforce you have, but it’s the same for everyone and we expect things to improve slightly tomorrow. I think we’re in a decent place with the set-up of the car, there’s nothing too urgent to address but, as always, we’ll need to squeeze some more speed out of the car overnight.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:20.344, P16; FP2: 1:19.227, P13

“Friday in Mexico is never the easiest day, we were struggling with the grip overall, but I think it was mostly because the track was so green, especially in FP1. Unfortunately, I got traffic in my push lap in the qualifying simulation, so my times are not reflective of our performance. The race pace was not too bad, so we can be optimistic for the rest of the weekend: we are there, we will keep working tonight in order to have a better day tomorrow. The target is to do the maximum we can do which means Q3. The track will evolve a lot in the next sessions and then we can have a better lap time and a better result than today.”

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Williams

Russell didn’t have a dream day, as he came out in FP2 and immediately encountered technical difficulties. He headed back to the pits and that was the end of his involvement in proceedings, with a gearbox initially blamed for the issues. Latifi was left to gather the team’s data, but he didn’t have a perfect day either, running straight on at Turn 16 and narrowly avoiding the barriers. More to come from them tomorrow.

GALLERY: Check out the special helmet designs from Perez, Russell and Vettel for the Mexico City GP

George Russell – FP1: 1:20.517, P17; FP2: No time set, P20

"Unusually, we encountered several gearbox issues today and have consequently had to take a new gearbox which will give us a grid penalty. It’s not ideal but it’s Sunday where the points are awarded. FP1 on the other hand was a strong session for us. The car was feeling good, I found a decent rhythm and we showed some strong race pace. That race pace is going to be critical as the high altitude makes it really difficult for the cooling, for the brakes and for the power unit. If we’re on top of that then I think we can be on the front foot for the race."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:21.580, P18; FP2: 1:20.820, P18

"Today was tricky. With the gearbox issue on the other side of the garage we needed to understand the problem and make sure that didn’t happen to me so unfortunately, we didn’t get through our full programme. We still have FP3 to dial in the car though so it’s not all lost. We learned what we needed to from the high fuel and, as we’ve seen in previous years, getting the cooling levels correct through the power unit and the brakes is so important here. Despite the issues, I think we still got what we needed to get today."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"We’ve had some issues today that hampered the programme, especially in FP2. We found an issue with George’s gearbox at the end of FP1 and so we opted to fit his race box for FP2. Unfortunately, this suffered with a different failure during the first run of FP2. We reduced the running on Nicholas’s car whilst we understood the problem and confirmed that he wouldn’t suffer the same issue. George will now take a new gearbox, which will leave him with a grid penalty on Sunday. This is frustrating, but at least it happened today rather than during the race.

"The car is behaving as we expected, with the low downforce dominating and making the tyre management difficult. However, we have completed some useful testing today despite the shortened running and we are confident that we can get the most out of the car over the next couple of days.

"Obviously, George has some catching up to do having lost FP2, but with the car working reasonably well and his previous knowledge of this track, he will do this quickly tomorrow."

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: George Russell of Great Britain driving the (63) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Haas had a clean day which was the first box ticked, and in Schumacher had a driver who impressed in the fight towards the back of the field. Mazepin had a slightly harder time getting to grips with the slippery track, but with plenty of laps under his belt should be able to make good strides forward tomorrow.

Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:22.144, P19; FP2: 1:19.620, P16

“Overall, it was positive. I think we solved the issues in FP2 that we had in FP1 and we can be happy with the day. We’ve learned a lot – the track is fun to drive – and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. It was better than I expected in terms of behavior of the car and that’s a very positive trait for today. There’s still more to come, hopefully, it’s all about trying to hit the right lap and be in the right spot at the right time.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:22.819, P20; FP2: 1:21.581, P19

“It’s been tricky out there. It felt a little bit like a street circuit during FP1, with so much dust and my helmet was covered in it - I think I went through over 10 tear-offs which I’ve never done this season before. Apart from that, I’m getting to know Mexico – it’s a very low downforce circuit and we’re using our maximum downforce, which isn’t enough here. We knew what we were going into – I’ve watched a lot of onboards and listened to what the engineers have been told by other drivers. It’s what we expected but we still need to improve the balance and we’ll go from there tomorrow.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Maybe not two completely smooth sessions for our drivers today, but in terms of bagging mileage at a circuit that’s new to them both, it’s at least been a productive to start the weekend. There’s no substitute for logging those laps and getting over 100 in on Friday – with two rookies – it’s a good thing. There weren’t really any surprises today in terms of the pace of the VF-21 but I’d say Mick’s FP2 lap time is a positive takeaway. Both drivers will build on what they’ve learned today and we’ll apply that tomorrow in qualifying having looked over all the data tonight. It’s always tough here, Mexico’s never been a kind track for us, but we’ll push in qualifying and see what Saturday brings.”

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MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 05: Mick Schumacher of Germany driving the (47) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on November 05, 2021 in Mexico City, Mexico. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"The drivers had to deal with an extremely 'green' and dirty track this morning that generated some abrasion and graining, especially on the front and rear-left with the soft compound, but there was a high degree of evolution all day as more rubber was laid down and the times greatly improved. A lot of the running today took place on the soft tyre, especially in the morning, as the drivers wanted to preserve their allocation of medium tyres for the more representative conditions of FP2, and also to keep two sets of this compound for tomorrow, with some drivers likely to try to get through Q2 on the medium and opt for a one-stop strategy in the race. We expect further track evolution tomorrow and we've seen that the battle at the front is extremely close in terms of race pace, so this could be a grand prix where strategy makes a particular difference."

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