On a very dirty and slippery circuit with lots of dust, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen eventually emerged fastest in Friday free practice, with a best time of 1m17.301s in FP2 on the P Zero Red soft C4 tyres. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was fastest in FP1, also on the soft tyres.
The track improved considerably in the afternoon as more rubber was laid down, following two years when it was not used a lot. The famous stadium section was particularly dusty in the morning, with both Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Red Bull's Sergio Perez going off and damaging their rear wings.
With downforce reduced by around 25% in Mexico owing to the thin air at more than 2000 metres above sea level, the cars were sliding more and generating tyre surface overheating, which placed an emphasis on tyre management.
Conditions were warm and dry all day, with FP2 getting underway in 24 degrees ambient and 40 degrees on track. Similar conditions are expected for the rest of the weekend.
So far, the performance gap between P Zero White hard C2 and P Zero Yellow medium C3 is around 0.6 seconds, while the gap between medium and soft C4 is similar, as expected.
Mario Isola: "The drivers had to deal with an extremely 'green' and dirty track this morning that generated some abrasion and graining, especially on the front and rear-left with the soft compound, but there was a high degree of evolution all day as more rubber was laid down and the times greatly improved. A lot of the running today took place on the soft tyre, especially in the morning, as the drivers wanted to preserve their allocation of medium tyres for the more representative conditions of FP2, and also to keep two sets of this compound for tomorrow, with some drivers likely to try to get through Q2 on the medium and opt for a one-stop strategy in the race. We expect further track evolution tomorrow and we've seen that the battle at the front is extremely close in terms of race pace, so this could be a grand prix where strategy makes a particular difference."
Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.