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Friday analysis - 'Crazy' grip levels make for error-strewn opening

30 Oct 2015

The main problem for drivers and teams alike was just how slippery the revamped Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez proved. It was extremely bad in the morning, when the track was initially damp, but even when it dried it was a severe challenge - and that meant mistakes were very common. Some drivers also complained about slow corner speed in the thin air of Mexico City, but that also made for staggering speeds in excess of 225 mph - the fastest we have seen in 2015.

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg, 1m 27.196s, P6/1m 21.531s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 27.723s, P11/1m 21.961s, P4

Rosberg caused a sensation by just avoiding the wall in Turn 12 and then heading back to his garage with flaming rear brakes in FP1 - but revised cooling allowed him to put Mercedes back on top in FP2. By comparison, Hamilton seemed to struggle; he was fastest at one stage in FP2, but where Rosberg went faster, the newly-crowned world champion did not, saying later that the low grip levels were 'crazy'.

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 26.295s, P2/1m 21.776s, P2
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 27.185s, P5/1m 21.868s, P3

Red Bull caused a big surprise with their speed, especially given the very long main straight and their Renault engine. Both drivers enjoyed themselves, though shortly before going second fastest Kvyat had described his RB11 as undriveable. Both are expecting Mercedes to open up and pull away tomorrow, however, as they usually do.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 26.886s, P4/1m 21.984s, P5
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 26.295s, P3/1m 22.399s, P6

Ferrari reported no major dramas, though Raikkonen said his set-up needs work. Like Mercedes, they are likely to show their true hand tomorrow.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 27.303s, P7/1m 22.721s, P7
Felipe Massa, 1m 27.695s, P10/1m 23.289s, P10

Bottas had a dramatic spin approaching Turn 3 in FP2, after which Williams advised both drivers to disengage DRS manually. Otherwise it was the same story – no grip, more set-up work.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso, 1m 30.072s, P17/1m 22.993s, P8
Jenson Button, 1m 32.091s, P19/1m 23.109s, P9

Button lost time with a high-voltage sensor problem on his new Specification 4 motor in FP1, then stopped early to have it changed as per schedule. That lost him running time in FP2 too, but he quickly got down to times similar to Alonso's once his car was running.

The Spaniard ran a new power unit and gearbox in FP1, lost time with a cut slick tyre and had to revert for a while to intermediates, then went very quickly in FP2 to boost the team - even if they do have to start both cars from the back.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 29.099s, P16/1m 23.290s, P11
Sergio Perez, 1m 27.581s, P9/1m 23.597s, P15

Neither driver had any major problems apart from trying to deal with the lack of grip. Both think they have a good direction for tomorrow.

Lotus

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 28.559s, P13/1m 23.363s, P12
Romain Grosjean (pm only), 1m 23.614s, P16
Jolyon Palmer (am only), 1m 28.711s, P15

Lotus were generally happy, though Grosjean was upset that a gearbox problem caused him to stop late in FP2, when the session was red flagged.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz, 1m 27.410s, P8/1m 23.364s, P13
Max Verstappen, 1m 25.990s, P1/No time, P20

Verstappen was a real star as he topped FP1, and while he cut a chunk off Turn 8 as he ran outside track limits on his fastest lap, his next best was also enough for top spot. He messed up even before he recorded a time in FP2 however, getting sideway exiting Turn 16 in the stadium and slamming into the outer wall. Sainz had a few adventures too in FP1, but things settled down once the team had solved brake temperature issues for FP2.

Sauber

Felipe Nasr, 1m 28.579s, P14/1m 23.430s, P14
Marcus Ericsson, 1m 28.498s, P12/1m 24.533s, P17

Nasr had a spin in the stadium in FP1 without hitting anything, but like Ericsson he admitted that there is still a lot of work to do on chassis set-up.

Marussia

Alexander Rossi, 1m 30.019s, P18/1m 25.940s, P18
Will Stevens, 1m 32.866s, P20/1m 26.968s, P19

Rossi was happy, finding a good balance and quickly getting over an electrical problem in FP2. Stevens was not so chirpy, after losing a lot of time in the morning with a sensor problem.