Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 17° Track 49° Humidity 40% Wind 0.4 m/s
Well Well, the influence of the Mayan Gods can be strongly felt in the Autodromo as FP3 loosed the Dutch Wunderkind (yes sorry for mixed languages there) as the fastest man on track in FP3 with a 1:19.137 as all the runners were spilled out onto the track with 10 minutes to go and a set of SuperSoft tyres to play with. The resulting traffic jam was emblematic of traffic in Mexico City in general, or so I’ve heard from those that have lived to tell the tale. As such, it wasn’t until their 3rd laps that the Mercedes lads set their times, and Ferrari failed altogether to get anything close to a representative lap.
Early in the session, however, it was Hamilton triumphant on the Soft tyres, rocking P1 with a 1:19.721 and nearly 0.2s up on Red Bull, whilst Rosberg was sat in the 1:20’s as the Soft tyre looked to be good for 16-18 laps and predictions for the Supersoft tyre dire indeed, with some thinking as little as 3-4 laps before they would need to be changed. So likely to see Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes with the potential to try to skate through Q2 on the Soft tyre, with traffic potentially playing a role in who gets away with it.
Grosjean was back to his undriveable car, as both he and Gutierrez complained of an exceedingly non-compliant front end. Worth noting that HAAS has changed brake material for this GP, working with Brembo to help sort their Brake-By-Wire issues. And they reverted to an earlier specification of brake duct, after the larger ones trialled yesterday in practice destroyed the aero of the floor. Just goes to show you (and Gene Haas) just how complicated and interconnected all these sytems are. Change any one thing and the effects can be rather unpredictable, particularly if you lack a large warehouse full of data to draw on. And, as if that wasn’t enough fun, Grosjean also suffered an ECU failure in FP2 which limited his runs. At this point, it’s almost as if FOM have a filter and anytime they hear the words “undriveable” or “disaster” you know it’s headed straight to the telly.
Tyres are 22/19.5 psi F/R for those playing at home.
Silly Season continues unabated with Palmer now linked to Sauber and Ericsson to Force India, despite the massive buy in to Sauber from Ericsson backers. Nasr to Force India also and of course the real loser thus far, Pierre Gasly who may have seen his shot evaporate with the resigning of Kvyat and frankly rather stellar driving of his teammate in GP2, Giovinazzi. King of the Manor could be the new headline after Jordan King set tongues to wagging.
Pay special attention to the braking zone as the cars enter the stadium as 5 live reported during FP3 there is a small rise that encourages lock ups, and easily a half dozen drivers fell foul of it during the last practice session.
Rosberg has looked several tenths down on Lewis the entire weekend, but this he has ascribed to being given the Medium tyres to work. The past few races, it was Lewis on the Harder tyre and Rosberg on the Softer. Nevertheless, pole position would be a delightful victory for him and reassuring, given the outcome of the first lap at COTA.
Argggh last minute bad news for Palmer, a cracked chassis from hitting the kerbs a bit too hard means he will miss the Qualifying session, not what he needed as he attempts to impress whoever he needs to in order to keep his foot in the F1 paddock for next season. A real shame as he finished almost 0.4s up on Magnussen in FP3.
And just to keep it fun, track has wandered from 33° to 49° between FP3 and the start of quali. Hottest by far all weekend.
The pit exit went green and it was Grosjean and Manor, with Magnussen in the mix, staright onto the track. Toro Rosso jumped on the early fun as well along with Sauber and as the clock ticked down to the 16 minute mark it was Gutierrez sliding it round the corners on his first effort, his purples being erases by Ericsson trailing behind him.
Gutierrez who was informed it was going to be the 2nd lap as the tyres weren’t yet in the windowas roudn and round they went
Ericsson went P1 with a 1:21.69 which was eclipsed by Kvyat’s 1:21.454. As the back of the midfield started to sort themselves out, Macca rolled onto the track along with Force India and local hero Sergio Perez.
12 minutes left and it was a different Toro Rosso, that of Sainz at the top, 0.3s up on his teammate as Red Bull and Mercedes began their outlaps.
Button to P3 as Hamilton hit the first sector hard, lighting it purple. S2 continued the carnage and S3 confirmed his ride, at least until Vettel came along and took away his toy, going 1:19.865 to Lewis’ 1:19.97. Rosberg was 0.4s slower and once Verstappen and Raikkonen finished their laps it was Raikkonen fastest, then Vettel, followed by Verstappen, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Perez and then Rosberg. The word ouch springs to mind, though it is as usual the case that Mercedes saves some time in hand for Q2 and Q3. Track temps, anyone?
6 minutes to go and it was Grosjean with battery problems and no time at the back, along with Palmer not taking part which meant it was Ericsson, Nasr , Ocon, and Gutierrez on the outside looking in, with it all left to do.
Ricciardo zonked in a P2 and Hamilton, finally banged in a good lap for P1, taking the fastest S2 and S3 on his way to displacing Raikkonen.
4 minutes to go and it was Gutierrez with the stage to himself, but not really helping as he was 0.3s off top 16 in just the first Sector alone. Improvement S2 and S3 saw him into P15, but barely.
Conspicuously absent was Kvyat who had hit the pits after his first run complaining of no power and was now sat in the garage, with the floor of his car off looking like he was going to be defenseless in the final tilt for Q2.
2 minutes left and it was Ericsson on it and up to P12, sending Gutierrez right back to the showers. Nasr was next to have his go, but P19 was the best he could do. Gutierrez had a spin on his 2nd try and the resulting yellow destyroyed Groshean who was right behind him. Wehrlein snuck it into P16 deep-sixing Gutierrez with no threat from Ocon behind.
Gutierrez, Kvyat, Nasr, Ocon, Grosjean, and of course Palmer were done like a dinner. The rest turned it around for Q2 and their continued run at glory.
Q2 and Lewis was first out on the Soft tyres, along with Rosberg and Bottas. Track up to 52°, headed toward Malaysia territory. Ferrari followed suit tyre-wise, as did Force India. Ricciardo on the Super along with the rest of the runners as Q2 looked right interesting all of a sudden.
Traffic looked mental as Lewis tried to line up his first lap, which was on his 5th go round. It was a fast lap in a 1:19.137. but into the last turn it was Vettel who badly balked Lewis, despite his P1. No naughty words from St. Lewis tho. (hahahah see what I did there)…
9 minutes left and it was Hamilton, Vettel, Rosberg nearly 0.6s off. Verstappen on the SuperSoft managed to beat Hamilton but only just, 0.165s off. Sainz was best of the rest, going P7 with Perez P8 but with Williams having run on the Softs, that result was not final, to be sure.
Vettel took advantage of the momentary lull to blame his race engineer for not “informing him’ of Hamilton on a hot lap behind with Bottas, Massa, Button, Wehrlein, Magnussen and of course Ericsson all turning it around for their last chance at glory.
3:30 to go and unusually it was Rosberg back out on the Softs, apparently either he or the team not entirely comfortable with his time, along with everyone slower than him to try and secure their slot in Q3.
0.4s off S1 for Rosberg and the bleeding continued through S2 for Nico and no improvement. Bottas and Massa P7 and P8 then Perez couldn’t get it done. Hulkenberg went P6 sending Alonso to the Spa and dropping Sainz to P10, demoting Raikkonen and the Williams’ pair as well.
Once the volcanic dust settled, it was Alonso, Perez, Button, Magnussen, Ericsson, and Wehrlein headed for some early tequila with the rest turning it round for one final go.
Interesting to have heard many commentators on scene talking up Rosberg’s demeanour this week, as compared to last week at COTA. More than a few have mentioned he seemed less relaxed and it does start to raise questions as to what exactly is going on at Mercedes, given that he is the championship leader at the moment. True that the weather had been exceedingly challenging for the teams but even still, rare to see him off the pace by such a large margin.
Hulk, Bottas, Sainz and then Hamilton led the way for Q3, with Rosberg and Raikkonen trailing out not too far behind. Bang went 11 minutes and it might well be 2 laps to properly get the tyres working. Traffic has played a role in every session and it might well again. Sainz on a used set of Supersofts with the rest sporting shiny new ones.
Ricciardo first on it, with Verstappen not far behind and a good gap for them both. 1:19.21 and P1 for Ricciardo then Verstappen to P1 0.2s up as Hamilton had his way, viciously purpling the Sector 1. Rosberg still half a second down as Lewis flashed across the line P1, well into the 1:18s and 0.4s up on Verstappen. Rosberg could only manage P4 with Raikkonen P6 and Vettel P8. Well, for those wanting a championship going down to the wire it’s looking a bit more likely today.
Back out with 3 minutes left and a final run at glory and Lewis gets advised lap 2, which is consistent with Mercedes’ treatment of the SuperSofts today.
Ricciardo was at the head of the pack sporting a fairly good lap but traffic with the lap 2 flyers almost inevitable. 0.4s off as the track was up to 55°. Ricciardo gets a purple S3 but can’t improve. Verstappen up and can’t improve. Engine problem for Kimi and Hamilton can’t improve along with the Red Bulls, though he was just 0.006s off his first lap. Rosberg told a different tale as he managed a proper time finally, going 1:18.958 and 0.25s off Hamilton’s time, but good enough for P2, exactly what he needed to keep him on championship pace.
Verstappen, Ricciardo and Hulkenberg rounded out the top 5, with the Max just a tenth off the Mercedes of Rosberg. Mercedes’ start will again be in the crosshairs as a bad getaway by either car will do a fair amount of damage to their WDC dreams, with plenty of room for things to go wrong on the uber long run down to T1. Brilliant stuff from Hulkenberg and Sainz yet again, P5 and P10 and if you’re looking for Ferrari to blame it might just be down to the track temps and tyres not being in their favour, as they were looking racy when the temps were a bit cooler.
Red Bulls on the Supers and Mercedes on the Softs also promising a very interesting dynamic, with Red Bull looking to sprint and Mercedes to maintain. If the FOM app isn’t lying to me it will be Raikkonen on Supers and Vettel on Softs as well so the strategy game will be full on tomorrow, and I’m sure we’ll all have fun discussing how they managed to get it wrong.
Remember, Play Nice in the Comments!