Mexican GP: Vettel edges Hamilton by 0.004 in FP2

Sebastian Vettel took honours in FP2, by just 0.004 from Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in third. Kimi Raikkonen fourth as a lack of grip leads to messy session. Yet more trouble for Romain Grosjean and Haas.

Mexican GP: Vettel edges Hamilton by 0.004 in FP2
Sebastian Vettel followed on from a strong morning to top FP2 in the afternoon. (Image Credit: Sutton Images)

This could finally be the weekend that Ferrari take the win that would mean so much to them and Sebastian Vettel, as he showed his hand by topping Second Practice on Friday afternoon from Lewis Hamilton by just 0.004s.

Topping Ferrari's first practice session since Belgium FP3, the German built on a solid morning session to take top spot, in a session that saw many drivers spinning, locking up tyres, and the now obligatory complaints about traffic and slower cars that has become part of the Formula One furniture in recent times.

Nico Rosberg was third for Mercedes, ahead of the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg, with the former's car looking a handful and the latter edging out Max Verstappen by 0.045.

Valtteri Bottas was eighth for Williams, ahead of the two Spainairds, Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz and Fernando Alonso of McLaren.

Yet more Grosjean misery

After completing his install lap, Romain Grosjean was forced to sit out a majority of the session, as his Haas VF16 contracted an ERS problem, leading to the team putting the warning barriers up and being forced to change the dodgy component. He did get out for around 25 minutes towards the end.

Romain Grosjean's session was severly disrupted with an ERS problem, although he got some running in at the end. (Image Credit: Formula One)
Romain Grosjean's session was severly disrupted with an ERS problem, although he got some running in at the end. (Image Credit: Formula One)

Meanwhile, out on track, Raikkonen's early fun as leader was halted when Vettel took P1, with a 1:22.024, as drivers took a couple of laps to optimise their balence and tyres before pushing for a full flying lap.

The lack of grip that was present in the morning hadn't gone away, with Sergio Perez, Rosberg and Felipe Nasr all taking trips onto the green stuff or ending up pointing the wrong way.

Despite the conditions, Hamilton put in the first representative time of the session, a low 1:20, which had him the best part of 1.5s clear of the pack.

Rosberg then tried to catch the pace his team-mate had, slowing nibbling away at the gap, managing to eat away around 0.5s before attention then switched to the qualifying simulations and race simulations.

As these runs came to an end, it was time to bolt the SuperSofts on and pump in some fast times.

Vettel by a Ferrari nose

Posting the first lap of the weekend under the 1:20 barrier, Vettel's first lap of a 1:19.790 was originally deemed a good effort, but enough to seriously challenge the Mercedes'.

However, one by one they came to take Vettel's fastest time, and one by one they all failed. Rosberg could only manage a time 0.4 down on the Ferrrari, with Ricciardo a tenth or so behind him.

Hamilton had traffic on his first lap on the SuperSoft, and managed to put his W07 Hybrid just 0.013 down on his second flyer.

They say, if at first you don't suceed, try and try again, which Hamilton did and he improved by 0.009 on his final lap, but his 1:19.794 was still 0.004 down on what he needed to do.

Looking at the race-pace averages of the top three teams, Mercedes were lapping in the low 1:24's, Ferrari in the low 1:23's and the Red Bull's in the mid 1:23's.

Before anything can be derived from that, it must be noted that the two Mercedes drivers average is taken from a much longer stint length than the other two, but points towards a close battle on Sunday.

Hulkenberg did well to split the Red Bull's, with as Sainz and Kevin Magnussen put on a little show down the main straight, getting unncessarily close to each other.

Vettel was on the radio complaining about slower traffic in front, in the shape of Alonso, calling him "an idiot"‚Äč, although to be fair, the McLaren was caught in the twisty second sector esses.

The session ended under yellow flags, as Danill Kvyat stopped his Toro Rosso on entry to the pits, with what appeared to be an engine issue.

2016 Mexican Grand Prix - Third Practice classification
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:19.790
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.004
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.435
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.469
5. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +0.658
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +0.784
7. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.829
8. Valtteri Bottas Williams +0.839
9. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +1.184
10. Fernando Alonso McLaren +1.213
11. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.403
12. Jenson Button McLaren +1.408
13. Felipe Massa Williams +1.536
14. Kevin Magnussen Renault +1.652
15. Sergio Perez Force India +1.789
16. Jolyon Palmer Renault +1.995
17. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +2.190
18. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2.207
19. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.247
20. Romain Grosjean Haas +2.315
21. Esteban Ocon Manor +2.508
22. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +2.618