Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheet in second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix, with the Ferrari driver edging Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton by just four thousandths of a second.
Vettel has been second fastest in the morning session on soft tyres as Hamilton ran fastest on the medium compound Pirelli, but when both moved to the supersoft for their performance runs in the afternoon Vettel found a slight advantage. After the German posted a time that would initially leave him around two hundredths of a second clear of the world champion, Hamilton found marginally more time to close the gap to 0.004 seconds.
After a low-key first practice session, in which he finished seventh, championship leader Nico Rosberg made progress in the afternoon and he ended the session in third place, though he was still 0.431s adrift of team-mate Hamilton.
Fourth place went to Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn finished 0.469s adrift of team-mate Vettel and Ferrari’s hopes of a profitable weekend were boosted by the fact that Raikkonen was 0.2 clear of fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo, with Vettel 0.658 ahead of the lead Red Bull. The Maranello squad lie 53 points behind the Milton Keynes-based outfit in the battle for second in the Constructors’ Championship.
After finishing fourth and fifth respectively with Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg in the morning, Force India enjoyed a mixed afternoon, with Hulkenberg showing good pace to finish sixth on soft tyres, four hundredths of a second ahead of Max Verstappen in the second Red Bull and a further hundredth ahead of Valtteris Bottas of Force India’s chief Constructors’ Championship rivals Williams.
It was a more perplexing session for Perez, however, as he struggled for pace and finished in P15, a second adrift of his team-mate.
The final top 10 positions were filled by Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, with the younger Spaniard edging his boyhood idol by just seven thousandths of a second.
Elsewhere, there was trouble for Romain Grosjean, with the Frenchman restricted to the Haas garage for the first hour of the session before emerging to set the 20th-fastest time of the session, two places ahead of team-mate Esteban Gutierrez.
Daniil Kvyat also had problems, the Toro Rosso stopping his car at the entry at the end of the session and reporting a power loss.
2016 Mexican Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:19.790 47
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.794 37
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.225 46
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:20.259 37
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:20.448 43
6 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:20.574 43
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:20.619 42
8 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:20.629 41
9 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:20.974 46
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:21.003 25
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:21.193 39
12 Jenson Button McLaren 1:21.198 39
13 Felipe Massa Williams 1:21.326 45
14 Kevin Magnussen Renault 1:21.442 39
15 Sergio Perez Force India 1:21.579 41
16 Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:21.785 44
17 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 1:21.980 42
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:21.997 42
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 1:22.037 43
20 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:22.105 14
21 Esteban Ocon Manor 1:22.298 44
22 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 1:22.408 33