“IT’S FASCINATING TO SEE HOW THE DRIVERS FEEL FOR AVAILABLE GRIP”
THROUGH THE THIRD-GEAR right-hander with a minimum speed of approximately 120km/h (75mph), pull the car across the track while accelerating to around 190km/h (118mph), then back on the brakes and down to second gear for the left-hander.
The first part of Mexico City’s stadium section seems simple enough, but, especially in the low-grip conditions of FP1, it’s fascinating to see how the drivers feel for the available grip.
One driver stands head and shoulders above the rest in the first 40 minutes of the session, prior to the mandatory relinquishing of the first set of tyres. Sebastian Vettel hits the brakes and turns in. Like so many others, the rear steps out and he has to make a big correction. Usually, this means a wide ride through the tight left-hander. But not for Vettel, whose rapid and precise corrections keep the car beautifully under control.
It’s no surprise to learn that he was fastest in that part of the session.
For others, it’s less straightforward. But you can see the adaptation. Valtteri Bottas struggles initially, but soon adapts to a technique that requires a relatively late turn-in, with the fast application of the left lock. Lewis Hamilton, by comparison, starts loading up the car laterally earlier and more progressively. Very different styles, very similar results.
Carlos Sainz Jr seems to struggle, regularly running wide, but gradually refines his approach. Most drivers make this progress, but Lance Stroll seems to struggle for confidence on the rear end, taking multiple bites of the steering wheel and then, when he finally winds on the lock properly, losing the rear. This happens a lot, and it’s no surprise that he loses a heap of time in the stadium on his qualifying lap the next day.
It’s a struggle for the Red Bull drivers early, too. Daniel Ricciardo is hesitant on turn-in and Max Verstappen regularly ends up with the rear stepping out after taking a more positive and later approach. As is often the case for these two, they gradually converge on a happy medium by the second half of the session.
Vettel warmly congratulates rival Hamilton
Vettel makes rapid, precise corrections