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Bottas heads Mercedes 1-2 in opening practice

NEWS STORY
05/11/2021

Ahead of today's opening session, the air temperature is 17.3 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35.5 degrees. It is bright but cloudy.

Though this is likely to be a typical FP1, it is going to be interesting to see - given the altitude - how the Mercedes and Honda power units respond.

As was the case in 2019, Pirelli has provided the C2, C3 and C4 tyres, having gone too aggressive the previous year wen hypersofts and ultrasofts (remember them?) were the order of the day.

The lights go green and Raikkonen gets things underway, the Finn followed by Schumacher.

As more drivers head out all three compounds are in use, with Norris, Ocon, Bottas and Hamilton straight on to softs.

Leclerc warns that the track is very dusty as Perez brings the crowd to its feet in the stadium section.

The TV cameras confirm that it is indeed very dusty, and that dust isn't confined to the track, in some places it's like a fog.

Of the first wave, Bottas goes quickest (21.327), ahead of Norris, Ricciardo and Perez.

A 21.549 sees Hamilton go second as Verstappen heads out on hards.

Giovinazzi warns of an issue with his engine.

No sooner has Verstappen gone third (22.268), than he is eclipsed by Alonso, Leclerc and Ocon.

Bottas improves to 20.459 and Perez to 21.301.

"Braking is terrible in the first three corners," complains Verstappen.

Following an earlier wobble in Turn 12, there's a spin for Leclerc at Turn 16 which sees the Ferrari damage his rear wing. Moments later, Perez spins at the same corner and likewise nudges the barrier with his rear wing.

In case you were wondering, track limits are being enforced at a whole number of corners: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8 and particularly 11.

The VSC is deployed as officials check the barriers after the Leclerc/Perez incidents.

After 15 minutes, it's: Bottas, Perez, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Sainz, Leclerc, Ocon, Stroll, Alonso and Gasly.

On softs, Gasly goes top with a 20.316, the Frenchman keen to make up for the disappointment of Austin. Moments later, Verstappen (hards) goes third with a 20.869.

"Couldn't slow down there," admits Hamilton after going off at Turn 1 and failing to rejoin the track correctly. Indeed, the incident is to be investigated after the session.

In the Red Bull garage, Perez is out of his car as his session appears to be over following that encounter with the barriers. Similar scenes in Leclerc's garage.

As drivers continue to struggle for grip, Bottas is off at Turn 12, while Hamilton improves to 20.085.

Still on the hards, Verstappen raises the bar with a 19.826. Moments later, Hamilton, on softs, responds with a 19.781.

From out of nowhere, Tsunoda, on softs, produces a 20.011 to go third.

Among the usual suspects at the other end of the timesheets is Norris, whose best time (22.718 on softs) is 2.9s off the pace. Teammate Ricciardo is currently 8th.

At which point AlphaTauri reveals that Tsunoda will start from the back of the grid after taking on a new engine, likewise Lance Stroll.

As work continues on the cars of Perez and Leclerc, everyone else is now running the red-banded rubber.

No sooner has Raikkonen improves to fourth (20.026), than teammate Giovinazzi goes quickest in the first sector. The Italian subsequently posts a 20.583 to go tenth.

Meanwhile, asked to perform a practice two with his teammate, Norris responds with a firm "no!", "I want to do my lap on my own," he adds.

Bottas raises the bar with an 18.834 as drivers continue to struggle for grip and consequently make mistakes, among them Alonso, Ocon and Stroll.

Hamilton and Verstappen head out on fresh softs. The Briton posts 18.976 to go second, while the Red Bull driver responds with an 18.464 to go top.

A 19.050 sees Gasly go fourth, the Frenchman quickest in the opening sector.

Despite the earlier fears, Perez heads down the pitlane. Quick in the opening sector, the Mexican subsequently loses time behind Tsunoda.

Elsewhere, Bottas is off at Turn 13, while Sainz improves to fifth with a 19.470.

Undaunted by his previous off, Bottas improves to 18.341, as it is revealed that an unspecified incident at Turn 1 Raikkonen will be investigated after the session. The Finn probably 'did a Hamilton' by failing to rejoin the track correctly after going off.

Perez improves to fifth with a 19.165, 0.2s down on Gasly.

Quickest in the final sector, Hamilton closes to within 0.076s of his teammate.

With 12 minutes remaining, Vettel switches to hards and Russell to mediums.

Perez reports that he is "struggling to cool his rears".

In the midst of all that action, the Alpine pair have slipped down the timesheets, of course, this is the only team using the Renault engine.

That said, Ocon posts a 19.759 to go 8th as Verstappen switches to hards.

Cameras catch a beautiful slide from Leclerc, the Monegasque keeping it nicely under control.

A late improvement sees Alonso go seventh with 19.656.

Hamilton and Raikkonen have been summoned by the stewards for their Turn 1 misdemeanours.

The session ends. Bottas is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Gasly, Sainz, Alonso, Leclerc, Ocon and Vettel.

Tsunoda is eleventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Stroll, Ricciardo, Norris, Giovinazzi, Russell, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin.

Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.

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