MEXICO CITY ― Triple world champion Max Verstappen topped both practice sessions at the Mexico City Grand Prix ahead of what promises to be a record-breaking weekend for the Red Bull driver.
The 26-year-old Dutchman is chasing an unprecedented 16th win of the season, and 51st of his career as well as his fifth in the last six editions of the Mexican race.
Verstappen lapped the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a session best time of one minute 19.718 seconds in practice one and slashed it to 1:18.686 in the second hour.
Williams’ Alex Albon was a surprise second fastest in the first session, 0.095 slower, with McLaren’s Lando Norris closest to Verstappen in practice two and 0.119 slower.
Home hero Sergio Perez was third and fifth respectively, 0.297 and 0.302 off his team mate’s time.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was fifth and third in the sessions with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas a surprising fourth.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton was only 11th in the first hour but moved up to seventh, with AlphaTauri’s Daniel Ricciardo a strong sixth.
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff explained the slow start to the day by saying the seven times world champion, disqualified at the previous race, had been testing various items with “lots of measurements on ride height and plank wear.”
Hamilton lost second place in Austin for excessive wear of the plank under the car.
“Lewis made a mistake on his fast lap and would have been around about P2 or P3, so that’s OK,” said Wolff according to Reuters.
Five young drivers replaced race regulars for the opening session as part of a requirement for teams to give track time to rookies, with Britain’s Ferrari Academy driver Oliver Bearman the highest placed in 15th for Haas.
Bearman, 18, also set a record previously held by Norris as the youngest British driver to take part in an official Formula One weekend.
Isack Hadjar was 17th for AlphaTauri, Jack Doohan 18th for Alpine, Frederik Vesti 19th for Mercedes and Theo Pourchaire 20th for Alfa Romeo after failing to set a flying lap due to brake issues.