Valtteri Bottas beat Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton by almost half a second to top the timesheet in first practice for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
The Finnish driver set a best time of 1:17.824s on Pirelli’s ultrasoft tyres with Hamilton 0.466s behind and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen a further tenth back in third place.
Hamilton goes into this weekend’s race knowing that fifth place or better will seal his fourth Drivers’ title but the Briton has stated that he would like to claim the crown with a victory.
That aim was put under threat by team-mate Bottas. The Finn set the pace early in the session on supersoft tyres, though he was eventually eclipsed by both his team-mate and by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
However, by the point Mercedes were turning their attention to the ultrasoft tyres, with Bottas quickly powering to his session benchmark. Neither of Hamilton’s laps on the purple-banded tyres was particularly clean, with the first compromised by a scrappy third sector and the second attempt featuring a slow middle sector. However, the second lap did allow him to close from just under eight tenths off Bottas to his eventual finishing position of second, just under half a second adrift.
Verstappen took third place with a time of 1:18.395. That left him 0.571s off the pace but neither he nor Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo used the ultrasoft tyres during the session and both drivers best time was set on the red supersoft rubber. Ricciardo finished just over two hundredths of a second behind his team-mate.
Ferrari also chose to reserve ultrasoft runs for the afternoon session and Sebastian Vettel finished the morning outing in fifth place, just under two tenths behind Ricciardo. Teammate Kimi Räikkönen was sixth with a time of 1:19.008.
Seventh place in the session went to local hero Sergio Pérez of Force India with the Mexican setting a time of 1:19.240 to finish 1.416s behind Bottas.
It wasn’t a trouble-free session for Force India, however, as reserve Alfonso Celis, in for Esteban Ocon, crashed heavily in the final turn, causing a short red flag period.
Fernando Alonso was eighth for McLaren though both he and team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne are set for hefty grid penalties on Sunday due to engine element changes. Vandoorne also suffered suspected engine issues in this session and completed just three laps.
Williams’ Felipe Massa was ninth, 1.619 off the pace, and the final top-10 position was secured by Nico Hulkenberg of Renault.
2017 Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 42 1:17.824
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 35 1:18.290 0.466
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 16 1:18.395 0.571
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 28 1:18.421 0.597
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 28 1:18.586 0.762
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 27 1:19.008 1.184
7 Sergio Perez Force India 21 1:19.240 1.416
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 20 1:19.346 1.522
9 Felipe Massa Williams 32 1:19.443 1.619
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 19 1:19.552 1.728
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Renault 24 1:19.554 1.730
12 Lance Stroll Williams 34 1:19.772 1.948
13 Kevin Magnussen Haas 16 1:20.644 2.820
14 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 30 1:20.971 3.147
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Haas 26 1:21.269 3.445
16 Charles Leclerc Sauber 28 1:21.446 3.622
17 Sean Gelael Toro Rosso 29 1:21.639 3.815
18 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 10 1:21.747 3.923
19 Alfonso Celis Jr. Force India 17 1:22.342 4.518
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 3