Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, 2023

Verstappen leads Albon in quiet opening session as five F2 drivers join practice

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen set the pace in opening practice for the Mexican Grand Prix, less than a tenth ahead of Alexander Albon and his team mate Sergio Perez.

In a relatively uneventful first practice session, Verstappen and Albon were the only drivers to break under the 1’20 mark on soft tyres. Perez was almost three tenths slower than his team mate in third, with Lando Norris fourth for McLaren.

As one of only two remaining rounds at known circuits that are not sprint weekends, many teams opted to run one of their two young driver Friday practice run allocations they are obliged by the regulations in the opening hour-long session. George Russell sat out of the Mercedes to allow Frederik Vesti to drive, Pierre Gasly was replaced by Jack Doohan in the Alpine, Valtteri Bottas handed over his car to Theo Pourchaire, Kevin Magnussen’s Haas was taken over by Ferrari academy driver Oliver Bearman and Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri would be driven by Isack Hadjar.

As well as the guest appearances, teams were also permitted to run prototype C4 compound tyres by Pirelli to gather data for 2024. Both Aston Martin drivers, Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, were out first onto the circuit on the experimental rubber.

It was not the easiest start to Pourchaire and Hadjar’s first outings in a grand prix practice session. Pourchaire reported a potential brake-by-wire problem with his Alfa Romeo and had to nurse his car back to the pits. Hadjar also recovered to the pit lane after falling into anti-stall in traffic at the stadium section at the end of the lap. While Hadjar managed to continue, Pourchaire was left stranded in the pit lane due to work on his car.

Oscar Piastri was the first driver on the medium compound tyres to set a lap time, posting a 1’23.692 to set the early benchmark. That was soon beaten by Alexander Albon in the Williams, who posted a 1’22.466 to go quickest, with Max Verstappen going second on his first effort behind his former team mate. A piece of metallic debris was seen coming off one of the AlphaTauris along the pit straight, but despite multiple drivers reporting the hazard on the road, race control opted not to intervene as it was off the racing line.

Verstappen fitted medium tyres of his own and used them to take the top spot for the first time with a 1’21.858, but the Mexican fans soon made themselves heard when Sergio Perez jumped ahead of his team mate to put himself fastest, almost three tenths quicker than his team mate. Carlos Sainz Jnr’s attempts to push in his Ferrari were squandered by a hydraulic problem, which left him having to cruise back to the pits with limited steering.

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As the session progressed, the circuit naturally picked up in speed. Norris headed out on soft tyres and comfortably set a new fastest time with a 1’20.237. But Norris’s time on top was short-lived as Verstappen took half a second off the McLaren driver, also on the soft tyres, to set the new best time of the session to a 1’19.718. Perez attempted a push lap on the softs, but was just under three-tenths slower than his pace-setting team mate in second.

Following his earlier hydraulic troubles, Sainz eventually rejoined the track to continue his practice programme. However, Pourchaire was not afforded such a privilege in the Alfa Romeo as he continued to suffer from braking difficulties every time he was sent out. Meanwhile, Zhou Guanyu struck the metallic debris that had been sitting on the grid for a substantial amount of time.

The final 20 minutes of the session were dedicated to higher fuel, long runs. As such, the only improvement near the top of the order was Albon, who came within a tenth of Verstappen’s best on to go second on the soft tyres. But Verstappen’s fastest time lasted until the chequered flag at the end of the hour, leaving the world champion quickest for the first practice session

Albon was second for Williams, two tenths ahead of Perez in third. Norris was two further tenths behind in fourth ahead of Charles Leclerc, Piastri and Sainz in seventh. Daniel Ricciardo was seventh for AlphaTauri ahead of Esteban Ocon in ninth and Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Oliver Bearman was quickest of the Friday junior drivers in 15th, ahead of Hadjar in 17th, Doohan in 18th and Vesti slowest of all drivers who set a time in 19th. Pourchaire failed to complete a single lap at racing speed due to the braking problems that proved unfixable within the session.

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2023 Mexican Grand Prix first practice result

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’19.71829
223Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’19.8130.09531
311Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’20.0150.29728
44Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’20.2370.51930
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’20.2970.57930
681Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’20.4630.74532
755Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’20.4790.76123
83Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’20.5680.85030
931Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’20.6770.95926
1018Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’20.6870.96926
1144Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’20.7241.00625
1227Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’20.9681.25029
1324Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’21.1291.41127
142Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’21.1571.43930
1550Oliver BearmanHaas-FerrariVF-231’21.3131.59531
1614Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’21.3471.62917
1741Isack HadjarAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’21.9412.22325
1861Jack DoohanAlpine-RenaultA5231’22.1092.39125
1942Frederik VestiMercedesW141’22.9373.21926
2098Theo PourchaireAlfa Romeo-FerrariC43No time4

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2023 Mexican Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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7 comments on “Verstappen leads Albon in quiet opening session as five F2 drivers join practice”

  1. I tuned in but found it unbarable to watch. The constant close zooming-in on the cars makes it unwatchable. I want to see cars driving on the track, not just cars and cockpits stationery in a shaking frame.

    1. @Asd
      Hear hear

    2. Agreed, but this is the typical worthlessness of the TV direction. I especially hate when they let the camera linger awkwardly on the face of people we see every weekend (from TPs to a driver sitting out while a rookie drives).

      Of all the opportunities to let us sit onboard for a complete lap with multiple cars, FP should be the time. Yet, I don’t remember seeing a full lap onboard with anyone.

      1. The broadcasts became absolutely terrible, in so many ways. I think that unbelievably idiotic graphic for onboard scenes illustrates it all (where they draw the frame below the car in front, with a name of the driver written in large font, trying to simulate a computer game!? I mean, I turn that stuff off even when I play games…). All they think about is promotion, having promised TV time to many people and companies. They take our money, but they don’t respect us viewers at all. And yes, that constant zooming in on people’s faces (that lasts waaaay too long) makes me cringe every single time. It makes me feel so awkward and even uncomfortable; well I’m sure almost everyone feels the same way.
        Those amateurs even use all the wrong techniques for capturing sensation of speed. With their weird zooming in and out the cars usually look like they are moving slower than bicycles would.

    3. I didn’t find anything any more unbearable than usual.

  2. Why did Alonso not have a timed lap until there only 20 mins left to go and then immediately waste another 5 mins in the pits? Seems like an odd strategy if they’re trying to figure out their new updates.

  3. Ollie Bearman is one of the few F2 drivers I’ve thought has looked special during the past two seasons and I think he backed up that potential today by staying within two-tenths to Nico for most of the session.

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