A very dirty and therefore extremely evolving track characterized the first free practice session of the Mexican Grand Prix, where however almost all the teams played hole cards. Mercedes closes first and second in the standings, with Bottas ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen just one tenth from the leader, but the impression is that little has been seen of the real potential on the track.
Mercedes differentiates the approaches with Bottas on the track with a higher power regime than Hamilton, thanks also to the much cooler propulsion unit. On his lap, the Finn sets a top speed in the long main straight already very high with 347 km / h, which was then equaled by other drivers only thanks to situations of slipstreaming. We compared the round of Bottas with that of Verstappen and the above is immediately evident, with the enormous difference in the straight that is widely visible to the naked eye.
The Mercedes driver then gains another 2 tenths also in the central sector where he is faster even in all the minimum speeds both of the very slow corners (4-5-6) and in the sector driven at medium-high speed (curves 7-11). . If this would normally mean an overall advantage for Mercedes, there is a section between turn 9 and turn 10 where Verstappen is significantly faster, and a last sector very much in favor of the Dutchman, in terms of references, how you stretch and how you feel. The perception therefore is that in the RedBull house there is still a lot of potential not yet extracted from the car and that in these first sessions Horner’s men do not want to give reliable references to their opponents.
Both teams have important supporting cards – The two teams still seem to have some tricks up their sleeves compared to previous races. On the one hand Mercedes can maximize the load without problems for the tires, given the rarefaction of the air at the altitude of Mexico City, bringing to the track a set-up that in general we have always seen preferred to the Brackley team, whenever possible. On the other RedBull seems to have found a good balance alreadydespite the fact that the two drivers used the rear wing at maximum load which at other times during the season had caused several problems with the overall balance of the car. Overall, however, Verstappen’s proximity to the times of Hamilton and Bottas with a Power Unit still kept at low revs (as we always saw Honda doing on Friday) and a Verstappen who evidently tried very little lap time seems to position the house Austrian with a potential advantage over their opponents, but only the next few sessions will be able to confirm this.
Ferrari third force for now far away – As far as Ferrari is concerned, the potential seems to be that of an easy third force but, at least for now, very far from the top. Sainz showed a good race pace and found a decent lap time, especially with a good speed on the straight (340 km / h), while Leclerc had a fight with the rear of the car throughout the session, including the accident. Looking at the first results it seems that the SF21 set-up generates a good speed on the straight and an excellent mechanical grip in the last sector (one of the strong points of Maranello, as always), but go into more difficulty in the central sector, with the high-speed corners to go with a rear that we know is aerodynamically unstable, an effect that could be amplified at this altitude. For now the McLaren seems to confirm the difficulties in high load situations, but it is necessary to wait for Saturday’s feedback to truly understand the level of competitiveness of the Woking team. A rival for the red seems to potentially be Gasly’s Alpha Tauri, which with the Honda Power Unit at ease on the high ground and a car derived from the Red Bulls of the past years, always very performing on this track, could try to disturb the drivers a lot. Maranello. Much will depend on whether the new hybrid of the Ferrari Power Unit will prove (as theoretically it should, given the little influence of altitude on the hybrid part) an ace up his sleeve for Sainz and Leclerc. However, the Mexican weekend has only just begun and the impression is that a lot has yet to happen.
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