Mexican GP 2016 FP1: Hamilton sets early pace

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in Friday's first practice session at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, with rival Nico Rosberg languishing in seventh.

Mexican GP 2016 FP1: Hamilton sets early pace
Lewis Hamilton gave an early warning to the rest of the field. | Photo: Getty Images/Clive Mason

Lewis Hamilton got his Mexican Grand Prix weekend off to the perfect start, setting the fastest time in Free Practice 1, with a 1:20.914.

The Mercedes driver was trailed by both the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, with his championship rival and team mate Nico Rosberg only able to muster a time fast enough for seventh position.

Home favourites Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez had differing sessions, ending the session in fourth and 15th respectively.

Sergio Perez' 4th place gave the home crowd something to cheer about
Sergio Perez' 4th place gave the home crowd something to cheer about. | Photo: Getty Images/Clive Mason

Rosberg initially had the upper hand in the early part of the session at a cold Mexico City, with ambient temperatures only peaking at 13° - thus rendering this morning's session inconclusive.

However, his early time of 1:22.748 was good enough to top the timing sheets provisionally, but no more than three minutes later, Hamilton bested his efforts by eight tenths.

The high, 50mm curbs around the circuit caused disruption to the session a fraction past the half hour mark, with Felipe Nasr running wide in his Sauber on the exit of the twisty Esses section, bouncing over the rumble strips, before the right side of his front wing was lunched by his left front wheel and spat out all over the circuit, with Kevin Magnussen having to take sudden evasive action in his Renault

Flustered, the Brazilian reported over the radio he "felt a funny noise". Indeed.

And thus, that brought out the red flags for six minutes whilst the detritus from the eye-catching failure was cleared.

Having spent most of the morning in the pitlane, Raikkonen set his fastest lap at the end of the session as the cool track started to rubber in. A 1:21.072 was good enough for third, 0.79 seconds off of Vettel in the sister Ferrari.

Finally, a spark of light for the faltering Italian team, having suffered yet another disappointing weekend in Austin. Fortunately, Raikkonen's bizarre retirement only incurred a small monetary fine, not a grid penalty for Sunday.

Keeping on the battle for second in the Constructors' Championship, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen could only manage eighth and 14th in their Red Bulls. More alarmingly, Verstappen's left rear brake caught fire in the pitlane, all but ending his morning prematurely.

Max Verstappen had a fiery end to his session. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron
Max Verstappen had a fiery end to his session. | Photo: Getty Images/Lars Baron

For the most part, the medium tyres - Pirelli's hardest compound this weekend - were causing difficulties. With track temperatures only reaching 23°, it took several laps to heat them up sufficiently. Undeterred, Hamilton managed to switch them on for his second run, venturing closer to the 1:20 mark, a 1:21.5 was the benchmark he set just before the hour.

Moments later, he found even more, settling on a time of 1:20.914, one he didn't attempt to beat for the last half hour. It was around seven tenths faster than last year's fastest lap in this session, despite lower grip levels.

Further down the order, Daniil Kvyat spun late on at Turn 1, citing a problem with the rear balance of his Toro Rosso, and ended up tenth fastest, Carlos Sainz followed in 12th, with the Haas of Romain Grosjean sandwiched in between.

McLaren surprised on speed trap figures, with Fernando Alonso in the top five - but it failed to reflect on their lap times. Alonso in 16th, Jenson Button in 18th. Button reported a funny noise coming from the engine, followed by voice-altering vibrations after the chequered flag dropped.

Formula 1 Gran Premio de Mexico 2016 - Free Practice 1 Classification
Position Name Team Time Gap Laps
1 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes 1:20.914 34
2 Sebastian VETTEL Ferrari 1:20.993 +0.079 23
3 Kimi RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:21.072 +0.158 19
4 Sergio PEREZ Force India 1:21.200 +0.286 23
5 Nico HULKENBERG Force India 1:21.409 +0.495 23
6 Valtteri BOTTAS Williams 1:21.447 +0.533 34
7 Nico ROSBERG Mercedes 1:21.673 +0.759 32
8 Daniel RICCIARDO Red Bull 1:21.727 +0.813 27
9 Felipe MASSA Williams 1:21.836 +0.922 31
10 Daniil KVYAT Toro Rosso 1:22.215 +1.301 29
11 Romain GROSJEAN Haas 1:22.500 +1.586 21
12 Carlos SAINZ Toro Rosso 1:22.563 +1.649 32
13 Marcus ERICSSON Sauber 1:22.723 +1.809 17
14 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:22.877 +1.963 10
15 Esteban GUTIERREZ Haas 1:22.910 +1.996 23
16 Fernando ALONSO McLaren 1:23.089 +2.175 25
17 Felipe NASR Sauber 1:23.089 +2.175 12
18 Jenson BUTTON McLaren 1:23.342 +2.428 24
19 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Renault 1:23.556 +2.642 32
20 Esteban OCON MRT 1:24.083 +3.169 30
21 Jolyon PALMER Renault 1:24.097 +3.183 35
22 Pascal WEHRLEIN MRT 1:24.350 +3.436 28