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Verstappen quickest in close final session


Ahead of today's sole practice session, the air temperature is 12 degrees C, while the track temperature is 24 degrees. Like yesterday's opening session - which took place at the same time - it is bright and sunny but cool... indeed, it's actually cold.

Based on yesterday's form, Lewis Hamilton will wrap up the title this weekend without too much difficulty, the Briton second in both sessions.

Teammate Bottas was quickest in FP1, while Ricciardo set the pace in FP2.

Vettel, whose title hopes went up in tyre smoke round about the time of the Singapore Grand Prix, appeared to get the message it was all over when a screw came lose in his cockpit causing his fire extinguisher to leak.

Behind the usual suspects however, the midfield battle is as hotly contested as ever, with Alonso battling with the Force Indias and Renaults.

Sadly, the usual engine penalties - for both McLaren drivers - mean the Spaniard will be hard pushed to resume battle on Sunday.

A number of drivers lost track time yesterday, not least Romain Grosjean, who handed his car over to Giovinazzi for FP1 and was then sidelined following a spin which resulted in a puncture and then subsequent damage to the rear of his car, most notably the floor and rear wing.

Gasly also got limited running (3 laps). Having handed his car over to Sean Gelael for FP1, the Frenchman suffered an engine failure early in the second session.

All three main teams looked good on their long runs, however, Hamilton's 19 lap run in the final stages of the second session indicates a one-stop race on Sunday. Which is not what anyone wanted.

Few of the drivers escaped without at least one spin yesterday, the dusty, ultra-smooth surface taking its toll. Among them was Hamilton who ruined a set of tyre in the process.

The lights go green and Wehrlein leads the way. He is followed by Ericsson, Magnussen, Alonso, Vettel and Vandoorne.

Alonso posts the first time of the day (21.470), with teammate Vandoorne posting 22.280 moments later.

Oh dear, shortly into his first flying lap, having gone quickest in S1, Gasly slows and pulls to the side of the track in the stadium. "Engine problem, engine problem," he reports.

The Frenchman remains in his car for some time. Though the marshals are on hand to move the car, the team is hoping to re-start it.

Asked to describe what happened, he says he lost power on the straight and that there was a puff of smoke.

He is given instruction on how to start the car. When asked if it worked, the answer is immediate. "No!"

However, all this, what with the resultant yellows, is cutting into the programmes of rival drivers.

The marshals are finally called on to move the stricken Toro Rosso.

Raikkonen immediately goes quickest, the Finn posting 20.903.

As the electric blue car is pushed to safety, more drivers head out.

Raikkonen improves to 18.925 as local hero Perez starts his first flying lap.

Hulkenberg posts 19.390 to go second, the German demoted moments later when Sainz posts 19.255.

As Perez goes quickest in S1, Ocon crosses the line at 18.845 to go quickest overall. Perez subsequently posts 18.772.

Vettel splits the Panthers with a 18.793 as Hulkenberg has a big- big lock-up at T1. The German subsequently pits.

Hamilton raises the bar with an 18.081, the Briton quickest in all three sectors.

While Hamilton is on ultras and Vettel on supersofts, Verstappen, also on supers, goes second with an 18.214. Moments later, an ultra-shod Bottas posts 17.963 to go quickest.

Sauber reports an issue with the electrics on Wehrlein's car, the Swiss team working hard to fix it.

In quick succession, Hartley and Sainz follow Hulkenberg's example and get it wrong at T1.

After 21 minutes, all but Wehrlein, Magnussen, Grosjean, Ricciardo and the hapless Gasly have posted times.

While Hamilton aborts his lap, Bottas consolidates his top spot with a 17.681.

Sainz goes 5th with an 18.539.

"The tyres, they don't work," complains Verstappen.

No such problems for Bottas who improves again (17.537), his ultras good enough for 7 laps thus far.

Ricciardo finally heads out, the Australian sporting supersofts.

Despite his tyres not working, Verstappen consolidates third with an 18.027.

"My front tyres are still not working in the first sector so we need to change them," reports Verstappen. Elsewhere, Ricciardo posts 18.878 to go 8th.

PBs in all three sectors sews Ricciardo go fourth, albeit 0.703s down on Bottas, but 0.2s ahead of Vettel.

Likewise, Hulkenberg, whose three PBs sees the German go sixth overall (18.502). He's on ultrasofts.

Sainz, also on ultras, posts 18.366 to go fifth, leapfrogging Vettel in the process.

Perez is told he can "lean" on all four tyres in the high-speed corners.

Now on the ultras, Raikkonen goes quickest in S1. In S2 he posts a PB, finally crossing the line at 17.767 to go second, an improvement of 1.1s.

Attention turn To Vettel who begins his first ultrasoft run by also going quickest in S1. He maintains the pace in the next two sectors, finally crossing the line at 17.230 to go quickest by 0.26s.

As more drivers switch the purple-banded rubber, Ocon goes 6th (18.165).

Verstappen goes quickest in S1 and again in S2, the Red Bull driver stopping the clock at 17.223, 0.007s quicker than Vettel despite a messy final sector.

Hamilton is struggling and can only manage PBs in the first two sectors on his way to consolidating 5th. "Power issues," the Briton subsequently complains.

Ricciardo is the last driver to head out on the ultras. As he posts PBs in the first two sectors, teammate Verstappen looks set to go a lot quicker. Indeed, the youngster posts 17.113, while Ricciardo goes third with a 17.361.

Raikkonen improves to fifth with a 17.517.

A strong second sector, but like his teammate a poor final sector, nonetheless, Bottas posts 17.283 to go third, 0.170s off Verstappen's best.

With 13 minutes remaining , the McLarens are at the bottom of the timesheets, the Woking outfit probably looking ahead to the race rather than qualifying.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Mexico, here.


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