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Max opens race weekend in Mexico in P1

Published on 27 October 2023 by Florence Cobben

Max Verstappen has finished fastest in the first training of the Mexico Grand Prix. At the high altitude, 4,304-meter Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez track in Mexico City, Alex Albon in his Williams drove second fastest. He was followed by Max's teammate at Oracle Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez on P3. Lando Norris’ McLaren and Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari rounded out the top five.

For the first practice of the Grand Prix, a number of seats were freed up for reserve drivers and rookies. So, Jack Doohan stepped into the Alpine car and Theo Pourchaire, Frederik Vesti, Oliver Bearman and Isack Hadjar did the same for Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, Haas and AlphaTauri, respectively. The teams also got to test new Pirelli tyres in anticipation of the 2024 season. These tyres have no colored marks and so are completely black.

At the start of FP1 it is 22 degrees and the track temperature hovers at 40 degrees. Led by both Aston Martins, the track immediately gets busy. Max also appears on track early on. Immediately there are problems for two rookies: Pourchaire goes straight back into the pits with his Alfa Romeo after one lap, reporting, "The gas pedal feels strange. I'm getting a message on my steering wheel." Moments later, Hadjar reports problems with anti-stall and also dives straight back into the pits.

After ten minutes Max is second on the timesheets, just behind Alex Albon. Driving on the Pirelli test tyre, the reigning world champion manages to set a time with a sizeable gap to that set by the British Thai, and climbs to P1. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz has a problem. The car sounds out of shape: "I lost the car, hydraulics. I am going to try and make it back, I have no power steering." The Spaniard struggles to return to the pits.

Things are not going smoothly for Lando Norris either. The young Brit is also having problems with his engine. The team, however, urges him to keep driving. Meanwhile, Max returns to the pits for a change to medium tyres. On his return to the track he immediately sets a 1.3-second gap to teammate Perez, who is driving on the same tyres. Moments later, Albon's Williams comes very close to Max by setting a time just four-thousandths slower than the Dutchman's.

Halfway through, the top five are as follows: Max, Albon, Charles Leclerc, Perez and Daniel Ricciardo. Cameras show engineers working hard on Fernando Alonso's car, while the Spaniard waits inside the car. The problem seems to be at the rear. He hasn’t been able to set a time yet.

With a good 25 minutes to go, Norris tops the timesheets and claims P1. However, in the meantime, Max has exchanged his medium tyres for softs and immediately reclaims P1. He reports shortly afterwards that he wants to come into the pits: "There is something in between my feet that is loose."

With a quarter of an hour to go, Max reappears on track. He does so on the same set of mediums on which he made good time earlier in the session. Albon proves moments later that he’s the man to watch this weekend by climbing to P2, just a tenth behind Max, who is busy completing a long run.

No faster times are clocked in the closing stages of the practice and with that the first practice of the Mexico Grand Prix is over.

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Results first free practice Mexico:

1Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:19.718 29
2Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes1:19.813+0.095s30
3Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:20.015+0.297s27
4Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes1:20.237+0.519s29
5Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:20.297+0.579s29
6Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes1:20.463+0.745s31
7Carlos SainzSAIFerrari1:20.479+0.761s22
8Daniel RicciardoRICAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:20.568+0.850s30
9Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault1:20.677+0.959s26
10Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes1:20.687+0.969s26
11Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:20.724+1.006s24
12Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari1:20.968+1.250s28
13Zhou GuanyuZHOAlfa Romeo Ferrari1:21.129+1.411s26
14Logan SargeantSARWilliams Mercedes1:21.157+1.439s30
15Oliver BearmanBEAHaas Ferrari1:21.313+1.595s30
16Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes1:21.347+1.629s17
17Isack HadjarHADAlphaTauri Honda RBPT1:21.941+2.223s25
18Jack DoohanDOOAlpine Renault1:22.109+2.391s24
19Frederik VestiVESMercedes1:22.937+3.219s25
20Theo PourchairePOUAlfa Romeo Ferrari---4