Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo dominated Friday practice for the F1 Mexican Grand Prix, but a late hydraulic problem for Verstappen prompted concerns about yet more grid penalties for the Red Bull driver.

For all their complaining about the poor reliability of the Renault power unit, the high altitude of the Circuit Hermanos Rodriguez appears to have affected the French manufacturer less than it has Mercedes or Ferrari. Not only was Red Bull able to net first and second places in both Friday practice sessions but Carlos Sainz finished the day third and Nico Hulkenberg fifth for the Renault factory team.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was particularly pleased with how the day had gone, saying that conditions allowed the car to run in its "optimum state."

“I think that what’s happened here is, as I explained before the event, is this high altitude: it tends to even things out a bit, so the engines are struggling for air,” Horner said. “The brakes, the cooling, everything is struggling for air mass through here, so we’re running the same wing as in Monaco and we’ve got the same downforce as Monza so I think we’re able to run the car in its optimum state and we’ve got a power unit this weekend that looks competitive relative to the others.”

“It has to all work in harmony, and aerodynamics is such an important factor in how they interact with the mechanical side. These days it has to all integrate in harmony and you can’t say we’ve got a good mechanical car but poor aero car, because aerodynamics are such a key influence.”

With just 10 minutes of the second practice session remaining, Verstappen’s car went into complete shutdown mode in the braking zone for turn one, which the cars approach at near 220 mph. The failure was eerily familiar for fans of Daniel Ricciardo, who suffered a similar problem during last weekend’s US Grand Prix.

Horner, however, was not too worried about the Dutchman being on the receiving end of grid penalties as he bids to become the youngest pole-sitter in F1 history.

“Hopefully not,” Horner said. “It’s a hydraulic issue of some sort, so we need to get the car back to understand what’s caused it and, if it is an engine change, he’s still got one in his pool, so he should be alright, but we need to get the car back first of all to understand it.”

Verstappen himself also seemed relatively calm about the failure, saying, “For the moment not (worried). I think it was a hydraulic failure, but we don’t know exactly because the car is still over there, so we will find out.

“We have a good car. Good downforce, good mechanical grip. We knew that. You could see it in Monaco already, of course, and today again it worked really well.”

Free Practice Two
1Max VerstappenAston Martin Red Bull Racing1:16.720 (HS)
2Daniel RicciardoAston Martin Red Bull Racing+0.153 (HS)
3Carlos SainzRenault Sport Formula One Team+1.233 (HS)
4Sebastian VettelScuderia Ferrari+1.234 (HS)
5Nico HulkenbergRenault Sport Formula One Team+1.326 (HS)
6Brendon HartleyRed Bull Toro Rosso Honda+1.341 (HS)
7Lewis HamiltonMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport+1.380 (HS)
8Kimi RaikkonenScuderia Ferrari+1.413 (HS)
9Valtteri BottasMercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport+1.420 (HS)
10Sergio PerezRacing Point Force India F1 Team+1.447 (HS)
11Esteban OconRacing Point Force India F1 Team+1.765 (HS)
12Romain GrosjenHaas F1 Team+2.013 (HS)
13Charles LeclercAlfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team+2.304 (HS)
14Pierre GaslyRed Bull Toro Rosso Honda+2.327 (HS)
15Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren F1 Team+2.376 (HS)
16Lance StrollWilliams Martini Racing+2.499 (HS)
17Marcus EricssonAlfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team+2.602 (HS)
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams Martini Racing+2.615 (HS)
19Fernando AlonsoMcLaren F1 Team+2.823 (HS)
20Kevin MagnussenHaas F1 Team+2.950 (HS)
HS-Hyper-soft US-Ultra-soft SS-Super-soft

Source: Autoweek

October 27, 2018