Red Bull dominant but Max Verstappen runs into trouble
Mexican Grand Prix - FP2

Red Bull dominant but Max Verstappen runs into trouble

27/10/2018

Max Verstappen continued his and Red Bull's dominant start to the Mexican Grand Prix weekend, although his session ended with a stoppage in the closing minutes.

While Ferrari and Mercedes looked out of sorts compared to what we have come to expect in 2018, Red Bull continued its strong pace from Friday's opening practice session. The high-altitude Mexico City Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit has shaken up the order for the weekend, with Renault's season-long power deficit seemingly negated by the thin air at 2,250 metres above ground.

That helped Verstappen go quickest again with a 1:16.656 -- just shy of his FP1 benchmark but 0.1s quicker than teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull's margin to the nearest cars looked more like the dominance Mercedes enjoyed in 2014, the opening year of the current V6 turbo engine era, with the next car over one second behind.

However, it was far from a trouble-free session for the Milton Keynes team -- Verstappen's car ground to a halt at Turn 1 with a suspected hydraulics failure with eight minutes remaining. Replays appeared to show the Dutchman's car lose power as it approached the corner. Red Bull took engine penalties at the Russian Grand Prix specifically for this current run of races but it now faces an anxious wait to see if this latest stoppage has a detrimental impact on what had looked set to be a very strong weekend for the No.33 car.

Behind the Red Bulls was the Renault of Carlos Sainz, who finished 0.001s quicker than Sebastian Vettel's Ferrari. Sainz's teammate Nico Hulkenberg was in fifth position. While the day was a good one for Renault in what has been a difficult few months, it was another embarrassing day for the French company's other customer team -- the nearest McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne finished one second behind Hulkenberg's car in 15th.

There were encouraging signs for F1's other beleaguered engine supplier, with Brendon Hartley putting Toro Rosso in seventh position. The New Zealander has been given three races to prove he is worthy of another season with Toro Rosso so will hope his strong start continues into the weekend.

From the front-running teams, Vettel appeared to be most at ease with his car, although he experienced heavy degradation on his hyper-soft tyre run mid-way through the session. Kimi Raikkonen, fresh off his return to the top step of the podium at the U.S. Grand Prix, had a couple of lock ups and wide moments in the session.

Mercedes seemed to struggle on all three of Pirelli's selected tyres for this weekend. The team discovered an imbalanced car led to its high blistering in Austin but it appears to have hit new issues this weekend. Hamilton -- who ran wide at Turn 1 during the session -- radioed the team in the final 20 minutes to say "something doesn't feel right with the car". The point of Friday practice is to hone in on a perfect strategy but Mercedes still appears to have a big deficit to overcome if it wants to be a contender on Saturday afternoon in qualifying. Hamilton and Bottas finished either side of Raikkonen in eighth position.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took the next positions for Force India, with a gap of 0.3s to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Sauber's Charles Leclerc was 13th, ahead of Pierre Gasly, who is set to serve another engine penalty this weekend for a newly-fitted Honda power unit in the back of his Toro Rosso.

Vandoorne was 15th, boasting the rare feat of finishing ahead of McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso. Alonso endured a frustrating session, running across the grass at Turn 1 after getting mixed up in amongst some traffic on the long main straight. The Spaniard, who is leaving F1 at the end of the current season, finished 19th and looks set to endure another miserable chapter of his farewell tour of the sport.

Williams drivers Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin finished either side of 17th-placed Marcus Ericsson. Kevin Magnussen finished 20th, but appeared to make an error on the final sector of his qualifying simulation run on the hyper-soft tyre. By the time of his second lap, he did not have enough in the tyres to improve. The Dane radioed the team to let his feelings be known: "These tyres are a f---ing joke".

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