“IT’S FAS­CI­NAT­ING TO SEE HOW THE DRIV­ERS FEEL FOR AVAIL­ABLE GRIP”

Autosport (UK) - - F1/MEXICAN GRAND PRIX REPORT - EDD STRAW

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

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