Mexico FP2 Practice: Verstappen fastest, McLaren very impressive

Jaden Diaz
28 Oct, 2023

Max Verstappen was fastest in Mexico FP2, just one-tenth ahead of Lando Norris in the McLaren. Charles Leclerc was a few tenths behind, making a step forward in between practice sessions. Valtteri Bottas executed well for Alfa Romeo and put himself in fourth position, also showing good race pace.

There is also early promise for Daniel Ricciardo, whose long runs were also competitive. The gaps on the flying lap are very small – only six-tenths separate P1 to P12. Small details in qualifying will be fundamental.

FP2: Conditions will vary all weekend

The last 60 minutes of Friday practice gave teams a chance to optimise race setup at the Mexico City Circuit. All the drivers went out early, eager to make use of the time available.

Alex Albon continued to impress in the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, showing the FW45 has potential. Fifteen minutes from the end, several drivers went on low fuel runs- including Max Verstappen, who went fastest with 1:19.511 on the medium tyre.

Oscar Piastri was the first to use the softs, 38 minutes from the end, was Oscar Piastri – initially going fastest. Alexander Albon set a lap soon after, only three-tenths behind the Australian. 

After the first qualifying simulations, Norris, Bottas, Perez, Ricciardo and Hamilton were all within a few tenths. 

The Ferrari duo put themselves near the front, in a circuit where the Italian team often struggles. With around twenty minutes left in the session, teams switched to race simulations – even with showers of rain looming.

Showers of rain impacted grip at the end of the session, though teams still worked to finish their programmes. Verstappen lapped consistently in the low 1:23s, with Leclerc and Norris initially in a similar range. However, lap times fell off at a greater rate for the SF-23 machine.

Race Pace Simulations

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Over a race distance, there were some very impressive indications for Lando Norris and McLaren. The British driver was faster than anyone, showing strong speed and reasonable tyre management on the medium tyres.

Max Verstappen wasn’t far away, with Lewis Hamilton’s race pace indicating that Mercedes had pace in reserve for qualifying. As it stands, Red Bull Mercedes and McLaren should be at the front.

Esteban Ocon described Friday practice as one of his best in 2023, and the timing sheets validate this. The Alpine A523 showed good pace in qualifying and race trim – though they are still susceptible to peaks and falls elsewhere in the midfield.

Aston Martin and Fernando Alonso struggled to put together representative times on the soft tyres. It is unclear if the AMR23 is legitimately struggling or if the British team used Friday for experimentation.

Ferrari was competitive in their soft runs – but have work to do relative to McLaren and Mercedes with their long runs.

Something important to note is that track conditions will be dynamic this weekend. Friday practice is certainly valuable, but several factors could result in changes across the pecking order.

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