Friday free practice for the Mexico City Grand Prix was as complex as expected, mainly because the condition of the track evolved constantly throughout the day. It meant the teams had few reference points, which complicated the job of refining the car set-up in order to make the most of the third free practice session which starts tomorrow at 11 (18 (CET). The situation looks very evenly matched between the teams behind the two that are fighting for the title and qualifying should be particularly tight.
The Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers worked on several items given that, apart from trying to find the best set-up, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc were also running reliability tests, as this is one of the key factors in Mexico because of the rarified air which makes cooling various components more difficult than usual. They also evaluated the three tyre compounds on offer. Apart from the work on track, the team also did several pit stop practices to optimise this vital operation.
On his sixth lap, Charles crashed going into the final corner. The low speed impact with the barriers meant he had to pit for the mechanics to change the rear wing on his SF21. However, the poor condition of the track at the start of the first session meant that the other drivers were not doing that many laps, so that by the end of the session, Charles' programme was not badly affected with Carlos only completing 26 laps, six more than his team-mate on 20. They both set their quickest times on the Softs: 1'19"463 for Sainz and 1'19"667 for Charles, who actually had to abort what would have been his quickest lap because of another usual difficulty here, namely traffic.
In the second session, as expected, the track evolved still further and as it cleaned up and rubbered-in, the lap times dropped significantly, even though the surface was still very slippery. All the drivers continued to struggle to get a clear lap, mainly because of traffic. Carlos and Charles started out on the Medium tyres, before switching to Softs in the middle of the session when it was time for the qualifying simulation runs. They then reverted to Mediums for the race simulation. Carlos posted a 1'18"318, while Charles stopped the clocks in 1'18"605. They each completed 28 laps, making a total of 56.
Carlos Sainz: A challenging Friday as always here in Mexico, where the lack of grip affects the behaviour of the car a lot. We tried some changes from FP1 to FP2 which didn't seem to work, so we came back to this morning's set-up during the session to try and replicate the balance I had in FP1 when I was happier with it.
Tomorrow we'll try other alternatives to see if we can keep finding lap time and improve the overall performance of the car. Some of our competitors look very quick so it's going to be a tight fight.
Whenever I switch off the engine, I can hear the fans shouting loud in the grandstands. It's been great to see so many Ferrari flags out there here in Mexico. We feel the support and we will try to put together a good weekend for everyone watching!
Charles Leclerc: It's great to be back in Mexico City! The atmosphere here is amazing as always. Even before arriving at the track, it's really impressive to see so many fans around town and we really appreciate everyone's support.
Our sessions today were quite different. In the morning, there was a lot of dust on the track, which made it quite slippery and tricky to drive, especially in terms of braking.
The track evolution was significant between FP1 and FP2. Lap after lap, you could feel that you are getting faster. It's still difficult to compare ourselves to the others and understand exactly where we are.
For tomorrow, we just have to focus on putting together the best lap we can and then I am confident that we have the potential to do a good job this weekend.
Check out our Friday gallery from Mexico City, here.