Mexican Grand Prix: Bottas takes top spot in first free practice
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News October 26, 2017 Updated: 2:12 PM
MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas finished ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in the first practice session for Sunday's Mexican Grand Prix at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez.
Bottas finished 0.466s ahead of Hamilton in second as the session started with many drivers struggling for grip with dirt on most parts of the track.
"But I think it was a positive day overall, I’m looking forward to qualifying," said Bottas.
Red Bull is looking to make a strong showing this weekend and got things started with driver Max Verstappen finishing third and teammate Daniel Ricciardo in fourth. Lap times tend to not be that important in the early practice sessions as teams generally work on setup and balance of the car. Some teams may also use devices to monitor airflow around the car.
"I think we managed to find a pretty good set-up today with the car and the tyre temperatures, but it doesn’t mean it will be easy for us all weekend," said Ricciardo.
Ferrari is hoping to keep their championship contender Sebsatian Vettel's hopes alive as this weekend to could prove to be crucial in maintaining his fight for the tile. Vettel finished 0.726s from Bottas in fifth. Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen finished sixth with Force India's Sergio Perez in seventh, who hopes to give his home fans a good show on Sunday.
Fernando Alonso finished eighth but walks into the weekend facing a hefty penalty for an engine change followed by Felipe Massa in ninth. The Renault pair of Nico Hulkenberg and new teammate Carlos Sainz took tenth and 11th. Williams Lance Stroll took in 12th after having a difficult time with traffic.
Kevin Magnussen had a chance to run the teams new aero package that they debuted last weekend in Austin but ran into trouble during the session leaving him in 13th. Sauber's Pascal Wehrelin ended the day in 14th followed by Antonio Giovinazzi who took the morning session in place on Romain Grosjean. Giovinazzi was running an older aero package so the team could gather data by comparing the two.
Ferrari junior driver and 2017 F2 champion Charles Leclerc finished 16th ahead of Sean Gelael, who took 17th after he lost the rear of his car during the session.
Afterwards Gelael said “Finally, a completely dry FP1 session! I’m very happy with this morning’s consistent weather conditions, it was a really positive session for me. I was happy with my first outing and set quite a good lap."
Right behind Gelael was Brendon Hartley who starts his second race with Toro Rosso after making his F1 debut last week in Austin. Hartley finished 18th after his car had an issue and stalled at Turn 4. Hartley managed to get the car back up and running and returned on track.
The second Mexican driver to take to the track was development driver Alfonso Celis who took the morning session in place of Esteban Ocon. Unfortunately, he would not finish the session after losing the car on at Turn 16 sliding and making heavy contact with the wall ending his day in 19th.
After the session Celis said “It was a very special feeling being on track in FP1 in front of my home crowd. I love the track and really wanted to put on a good show. Unfortunately I pushed a bit too hard and ended the session early. I turned in and lost the rear at the final corner. The track had quite low grip and several other cars did the same thing, but I made contact with the wall."
The second McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne did not set a time and only managed three laps after the team detected a power unit issue. Vandoorne will take a 35-place penalty after the team had to make a power unit change.