Daniel Ricciardo tops tight second practice in Mexico
Mexican Grand Prix - Free Prictice 2

Daniel Ricciardo tops tight second practice in Mexico

Daniel Ricciardo set the fastest time in second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix as the top four cars were split by just 0.250s.

Ricciardo beat championship leader Lewis Hamilton to the top spot by 0.131s after finding all of his time advantage in the twisty final sector. Ricciardo's other sectors were roughly in the same ballpark, but Red Bull's mechanical and aero package came to the fore in the final sector and especially in the stadium section of the lap.

Hamilton only needs to finish fifth this weekend to secure the title, but has stated that he will still only be happy with a win on Sunday. To do so he is likely to face a tougher challenge than at the U.S. Grand Prix last weekend as the Mercedes is out of its comfort zone when running the high-downforce trim required to combat Mexico City's thin air. Mercedes' power advantage will make up for some of the performance deficit on the circuit's two long straights and that was reflected in fast first and second sector times for Hamilton. However, the balance of the Mercedes looked a little bit skewed earlier in the session, resulting in a big spin for the championship leader on the exit of Turn 11 within the first 15 minutes.

Sebastian Vettel -- Hamilton's sole remaining title rival -- also had a problematic session after the cockpit fire extinguisher went off during his second run out of the pits. The incident forced him to return to the Ferrari garage for a change of overalls and a clean-up, meaning he returned to the track for his quick laps a little later than the other front runners. Small mistakes on his fast laps meant he did not extract the full potential from the Ferrari and he finished the session in fourth place, 0.119s down on Hamilton. The long runs looked more promising, however, so he may still have a car capable of fighting for the victory he so desperately needs to aid his slim championship hopes.

Splitting the two title rivals was Max Verstappen's Red Bull, just 0.032s off Hamilton and 0.087s ahead of Vettel. His final sector was slightly quicker than teammate Ricciardo's, but Verstappen lost time in sectors one and two, meaning the overall lap time was 0.167s shy. Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas had to settle for fifth and sixth as they both spent another session off the pace of their respective teammates at Ferrari and Mercedes.

Fernando Alonso slotted into seventh in the McLaren -- another impressive Friday performance from the two-time world champion, but one that will not carry over to a top ten grid position as he faces a 20-place penalty from wherever he qualifies. That is likely to mean the remaining positions in the top ten are fought out between Force India and Renault, with Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon split by less than a tenth of a second in positions eight, nine and ten, while Carlos Sainz in the second Renault was 11th fastest ahead of Felipe Massa's Williams in 12th.

Toro Rosso's Brendon Hartley was 13th fastest on just his second race weekend in F1, beating Lance Stroll in 14th place and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne in 15th. Pascal Wehrlein was 16th fastest for Sauber ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the Haas and teammate Marcus Ericsson. After missing out on FP1 while development driver Sean Gelael got some seat time, Pierre Gasly returned to his cockpit in FP2 to set the 19th fastest in the second Toro Rosso.

Romain Grosjean completed just three laps after a spin in the final corner saw him flatspot all four tyres early in the session. That in itself wasn't a major issue, but as he got back up to speed on the long straight down to Turn 1 his left-rear tyre delaminated, causing extensive damage to the floor of his car. The debris on track resulted in a ten minute red flag period as marshals were sent out to sweep up the chunks of carbon fibre and rubber littering the track.

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