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In quotes - Friday in Mexico

30 Oct 2015

The drivers and teams report back on the first day of F1 action at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 23 years - and an eventful day it was too...

Force India

Sergio Perez
FP1 - 9th, FP2 - 15th

“It's been a very special day from a personal point of view, but my focus remains on the work we have to do to prepare for the race. The circuit is quite challenging and, as we expected, very slippery. In the middle sector there is a lot of movement with the car and it's very difficult to get the car to stay on the right line. The altitude affects the levels of downforce pretty dramatically, so you end up being fairly light no matter what levels you are running. The conditions are very tricky but they're the same for everyone, so we will need to adapt. I want to give all the Mexican fans who come to the track this week something to celebrate on Sunday: it was great to see so many of them today and I am feeling optimistic that I will be able to deliver a good result for them.”

Nico Hulkenberg
FP1 - 16th, FP2 - 11th

“The circuit is definitely a big challenge, but it's good fun to drive. It's very technical and quite tricky to get it right. Sectors one and two, after the straight, are quite twisty and low-speed: the grip levels are very low, due to the new tarmac, and it's very easy to make a mistake. I am happy about the direction we are taking: there is still a lot to be done to find some more performance, but we are at a good starting point and I am sure that looking through the data will help us progress. We were able to complete a lot of laps, using both tyre compounds, and I think we have a pretty good understanding of where we are ahead of qualifying tomorrow.”

Dr Vijay Mallya, Team Principal & Managing Director

“I have to take my hat off to the organisers of the race for doing such a fantastic job with the circuit. The facilities are brilliant and everything was ready for us from the moment we arrived. I love Mexico - it has many things in common with India, such as the passion and friendliness of people and their love of spices. Racing at this altitude brings a whole set of challenges, in particular with finding the grip, but they're the same conditions for everyone and it will be up to us to find the solutions we require. The track was very slippery at the start of the day and the damp conditions didn't help, so FP1 didn't really give us ideal conditions. In FP2, we adapted our programme to account for the risk of rain and collected all the data we needed at the start of the session. We expect the grid to be very tight but we look in good shape, so it’s important that we maximise our qualifying performance tomorrow.”

McLaren

Fernando Alonso
FP1 - 17th, FP2 - 8th

“During FP1, some debris caused a cut on my left-rear tyre, so I had to do a run on Intermediates. Nevertheless, the car keeps improving with the new parts. We’re definitely making progress, but, obviously, with the penalties we have, we’ll be starting from the back row. That means we’ll spend tomorrow concentrating on our race pace and tyre management - we witnessed more degradation out there than perhaps we’d expected. It’s great to be at a new circuit. The atmosphere within the circuit is great - the people are very enthusiastic. The track itself is very slippery - which makes it not as enjoyable as we’d hoped for - but hopefully tomorrow a bit more rubber will go down and we’ll all be a bit faster in the corners.”

Jenson Button
FP1 - 19th, FP2 - 9th

“This morning was tricky - there was very low grip, and it felt like the water was staying in the asphalt, which felt very strange. In the afternoon, the grip was much better - the track is more fun to drive when it grips up; you can place the car and carry speed through the corners. Regarding brake wear, I think it’s going to be a tough weekend for everyone - particularly in the race, when cars will be running closely in traffic. But I’m looking forward to an unpredictable race - despite starting from the back, we’ll be aiming to make a good start and the drive the wheels of it, as we always do. We can have some fun around here.”

Eric Boullier, Racing director

“It’s very encouraging to find both cars in the top 10 at the end of a difficult day’s practice. The track was clearly extremely slippery throughout both sessions, and certainly wasn’t helped by a light smattering of rain at the end of this afternoon’s running. Nonetheless, both Fernando and Jenson were immediately on the pace, and - despite a few hiccups - were able to run through their practice programmes. Hats off to our hard-working mechanics, too, who have fitted no fewer than three new ICEs this weekend, including a very efficient planned change on Jenson’s car between today’s sessions. With these new components having a knock-on effect on our grid positions, we’ll be toiling tirelessly to ensure we have a car that’s capable of making progress in what’s likely to be an unpredictable and exciting race on Sunday.”

Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer - chief officer of motorsport

“Mexico is a special place for Honda and F1, and we’re happy to be part of the sport’s return here. Contrary to the weather forecast, the track remained dry until the last runs of FP2, and thankfully we were able to put in enough laps to set up both the chassis and power units for this new track. Jenson ran with new power units in both FP1 and FP2, with a planned engine change taking place in-between sessions. During FP1, the high-voltage sensor on his car went into a fail mode, which resulted in the decision to stop early and swap out the power unit during the lunchbreak. Fernando put in a solid number of laps which has helped the team tremendously to gather much-needed data, including the effect of the high-altitude characteristics of the circuit. We think that we have a good direction on the data setting for the power unit, so we will analyse further tonight before tomorrow’s qualifying.”

Pirelli

Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport Director

“Today was all about grip and track evolution. As usual on a new surface, there’s a very shiny new top layer of oil and grease that makes it very hard to find traction. As time goes on, the top of the surface eventually gets grated away and more rubber is laid down: but this doesn’t happen instantly. The weather today didn’t help either with very variable temperatures and then rain at the end of FP2. So this has made what’s already a very hard job for the teams in preparing for a new track even more difficult, because there isn’t enough consistent information to get an accurate picture of what conditions will be like for the rest of the weekend. However, these challenging circumstances bring out the best in Formula One, with the teams having to make the most of limited information to extract the best possible performance. Even though today was just free practice, the atmosphere was absolutely incredible: the stadium section in particular is set to be a highlight of the lap on race day.”

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz
FP1 - 8th, FP2 - 13th

“It’s been a bit of a tricky first day here in Mexico, the track was very slippery. In the morning we struggled a bit with brake temperatures, which didn’t allow me to push as much as I wanted in FP1. The good news is that it was better during this afternoon’s FP2 and I was therefore able to learn the track, step by step. We have a big of margin of improvement in terms of the car balance, as I wasn’t very comfortable today compared to the rest of the season. There’s a bit of homework to do tonight and it’s definitely going to be a challenging weekend but I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”

Max Verstappen
FP1 - 1st, FP2 - 20th

“It was a new experience for everyone today, as this is the first time we drive here, so at the start the conditions were quite tricky, but I think we built it up in a good way and had a very good FP1. To end the session in P1 is nice of course, and it means that the car is working well and I enjoy driving here. Unfortunately, during my first push-lap in FP2 I suddenly lost the rear and crashed in the last corner - I think it’s maybe just a combination of cold tyres and the track still being a bit damp. I think I overestimated the grip… It’s a bit of a shame that there isn’t more of a run-off at that corner! Tonight we have time to focus on all the data from Carlos’ FP2 to prepare ourselves for tomorrow.”

Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer

“We are pleased with this morning’s FP1 - we targeted keeping the drivers on track to maximise their familiarisation with this new circuit and this approach was working quite well. In fact Max did a very good lap towards the end of the session and was looking very good. Unfortunately, in FP2 he had an off at the start of the session. The car is not too badly damaged and I am sure he will be back on form tomorrow. As a result of Max’s off it was necessary for Carlos to take up the extra workload in our programmes. So he did plenty of mileage again in FP2; we were prompt getting him out on the short runs and he completed plenty of laps on the long run. We’ve learned quite a lot today, but I think it is no secret that brakes and engine cooling are more difficult here with the low ambient pressures. The factory gave us some good support between the sessions to help in both respects but we will still have to do some further work with our car configuration tonight to ensure we have a margin for Sunday’s race. The weather forecasts are also looking quite interesting for the rest of the weekend, with possible rain. Overall, it’s has been a bit of a scrappy day but we’ve ticked-off a lot of the boxes in our program targets.”

Marussia

Alexander Rossi
FP1 - 18th, FP2 - 18th

“It was a good day for me. In FP1 I got to grips quite quickly with what is a new and exciting circuit. We had a small electrical problem this afternoon, but we got that fixed and I was able to get some really good laps in. I’m feeling pretty comfortable with the car, so we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Will Stevens
FP1 - 20th, FP2 - 19th

“It’s been a bit of a frustrating day for me. I lost quite a bit of time in FP1 due to a sensor problem. Things were a little better this afternoon, although I’m still struggling for grip, so there’s a lot of work to do tonight to get on top of that in order for us to have a better day tomorrow.”

John Booth, Team Principal

“It has been an interesting first day of running at a new circuit. We’ve had a couple of glitches during the day, but perhaps not as many as might have been expected during our first outings at a track that is such an unknown quantity. Alex is happy with the balance of his car and consequently he had a good day. Will has had a more difficult day, having lost a lot of time in FP1. FP2 was better for him, but we still need to help him to find some grip.”

Williams

Valtteri Bottas
FP1 - 7th, FP2 - 7th

“We had plenty of running today, which was good. The conditions were very difficult, with very low overall grip because of the high altitude, but also because of the new asphalt which is very slippery. Tonight we need to look at how we can get the tyres to work and bite better on the surface, that’s the main thing. But so far it’s not too bad, I think we can have a good weekend.”

Felipe Massa
FP1 - 10th, FP2 - 10th

“It was a very difficult day. It was the first time on this track and it was one of the most slippery tracks I’ve ever driven in my life. It was difficult to keep the car on the track, especially in the wet as the conditions were really slippery. Even in the dry we had to work to understand the grip of the tyres which was very difficult. We have a lot of work for tomorrow to understand the car, the track, the balance and even the weather, this will be important work for the outcome of the rest of the weekend.”

Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering

“First impressions of the circuit are really good, the layout is great. The grip was really low today as you can see from all the drivers’ comments. It was very slippery even with the option tyre, but I’m sure that’s going to improve over weekend. The characteristics of the option and the prime will change, the delta between the two and the degradation will also change. It’s been quite a reasonable start, we did all the work we needed to get through on low and high fuel, now we just need to put it all together for qualifying tomorrow.”

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson
FP1 - 12th, FP2 - 17th

“It was a difficult day for me. It is a challenge to get the tyres to work on this new track due to the low grip level. We tried different set-ups on the car which do not seem to have worked properly yet. We have to look into the data, so that we can improve for the rest of the weekend.”

Felipe Nasr
FP1 - 14th, FP2 - 14th

“Today it was all about learning the new circuit and getting used to it. As the grip level is quite low, we made some adjustments to the car in order to adapt to the track conditions. It is normal that the tarmac is very slippery on new circuits. I struggled mainly on the medium tyres to get them to work. It was a bit better on the soft compound, but we still have a lot of work to do. We have to analyse the data and then make the right changes on the car.”

Mercedes

Nico Rosberg
FP1 - 6th, FP2 - 1st

“It´s very exciting to race here in Mexico for the first time. The track reminds me very much of my youth. It feels like a kart circuit with a lot of very tight corners and the two stadiums are really spectacular with all the fans. We brought the same rear wing here as we would use in Monaco, with maximum downforce. But, because of the altitude here in Mexico City, we are also very quick on the straights which feels very strange. I was happy with the outcome today. It seems that we are quick and I was able to try a lot of different things with the car. I'm really enjoying it here and I can't wait for qualifying and the race.”

Lewis Hamilton
FP1 - 11th, FP2 - 4th

“It was really challenging out there today - for everyone I think - but also a lot of fun. The track feels more like a go kart track in the slow areas! It's crazy how slippery it is. Because we're so high up in terms of altitude, there's even less grip than in Monza, so the car was just sliding around. Of course, this is also because the track is new, so there is no rubber on it yet. But it's getting better and better the more we drive. It's great to see how many people came out today. It has been really full out in the stands - especially for a Friday - which is really good to see!”

Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)

“It was an exciting day to go out for the first time on this new interpretation of a classic Grand Prix circuit. The first session started in damp conditions, so we ran the intermediate tyre to begin with, then we migrated to the dry tyres. The track was very slippery to start with, with the new asphalt inevitably smooth and also a little oily, which made it tricky to get temperature into the tyres. As we saw, the biggest drama in first practice came when Nico's brakes caught fire, which meant we needed to change the brake ducts and calipers as a result. We made quite a few adjustments over the break and then had a more regular second session, looking at both types of tyre on low and high fuel loads. The circuit seems to have settled already, and we're managing to get the tyres to work. It was fantastic to see so many fans out there today, on a Friday, and we're looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere tomorrow.”

Red Bull

Daniil Kvyat
FP1 - 2nd, FP2 - 2nd

"The track is very cool, it’s a lot of fun and there are plenty of technical sections where you need to prepare for the corners and think twice before you really get into it. It was a good crowd, we saw lots of fans and passion today and the stadium section looks cool, it's very nice to see. Conditions were changing quite a lot today and as you expect with a new track, it was evolving a lot too. How things are right now, we look very competitive, so hopefully we can keep it up tomorrow. Nevertheless I don’t think it’s going to be easy because usually on Saturday the silver cars and the other guys find some more performance, but we’ll have to wait and see. Fingers crossed we’ll be able to maintain this nice level of performance and hopefully we can spice things up tomorrow. That would be really cool."

Daniel Ricciardo
FP1 - 5th, FP2 - 3rd

“I feel the track has got a lot of potential, but it’s so slippery out there. Even in the afternoon when it was quite dry, the high-speed stuff was still very slippery. But it’s a brand new track and once the grip is in, it’ll be a lot of fun. The track is unique and I think they have done a really good job with it. The facilities are amazing as well. It’s definitely really cool to have such big support here – there were so many people in the grandstands. Not a bad Friday for us as a team with pretty much all corners at the track suiting us. On the one straight we lose all our advantage, but all these tight, twisty corners and the fast flowing esses in the middle worked to our advantage. We look more competitive than we thought we would be, but let’s see what happens tomorrow.”

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen
FP1 - 3rd, FP2 - 6th

“It was quite a tricky day, the layout of the track is ok but the new surface was very slippery.
The cars were sliding around and sometimes you felt more like being in rallying than in Formula One! The tires are a bit on the conservative side but it’s the same for everybody. We knew since the beginning that because of the altitude and the thin air, the speeds would have been high, I think everybody was running full downforce; but I would prefer to have the usual amount of downforce. Obviously, as we do more and more laps, track conditions will improve and the surface will grip out, but I’m sure it will still be more tricky than other races. In the second session during the long run it was raining a bit and I didn’t want to risk anything, so I took it easy every time there were drops coming down. Tomorrow we still have time to work on the car for a better set up and see how it goes. We’ll try to make the best out of it.”

Sebastian Vettel
FP1 - 4th, FP2 - 5th

“It was an interesting day, the circuit was very slippery. It has very low grip, I think everybody struggled to keep the car on the track. Surprisingly the speed was low overall, I was hoping that the fast corners were a bit quicker. Hopefully with more rubber on the track it should get quite a bit better. It was amazing to see how many spectators there were already on Friday, and it’s also kind of unique to enter a sort of stadium when you look left and right and see this many people are there… And then the big grandstands, you drive through them! It’s a bit like Singapore, just bigger, and there is a great feeling. I think we can be reasonably happy with how the day went, but I’m sure we can still improve. Unfortunately the rain stopped our long run in the end, but so everyone was affected the same way. Nevertheless I am sure we can do improvements for tomorrow and we should be in a good place.”

Lotus

Jolyon Palmer
FP1 - 15th

“It’s a fairly distinctive circuit but as always you learn a new layout pretty quickly. I was able to push quite early, even if sometimes you don’t exactly adhere to the correct line whilst you’re learning the limits.”

Romain Grosjean
FP2 - 16th

“It was really frustrating to have a gearbox issue in the middle of my single session today. The circuit is certainly interesting and very well put together and I was enjoying learning it and pushing harder. I’m sure we can get the gearbox sorted and rack-up some more laps ahead of qualifying.”

Pastor Maldonado
FP1 - 13th, FP2 - 12th

“It wasn’t a bad day for us and I like the track. The surface was pretty slippery when wet but it was improving rapidly when we got some dry runs in. We had some work to do on balance and braking but the car felt pretty good. I’m looking forward to see how much progress we can make with the car then getting out and pushing hard in qualifying.”

Alan Permane, Trackside Operations Director

“The latest iteration of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez certainly gives us an interesting challenge but in terms of facilities and the welcome we’ve received it’s exemplary. We started with a damp track - and a new surface at that - but it wasn’t as slippery as we thought it could be and grip levels improved rapidly. We have a decent amount of work to do refining set-up but we have a strong starting point. Romain suffered from a gearbox issue; we’re looking into it.”