MEXICO CITY (REUTERS) – Local hero Sergio Perez spun and hit the wall in first practice for his home Mexico City Grand Prix on Friday (Nov 5) as Valtteri Bottas led Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton one-two at the top.
Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen, Perez’s Red Bull team mate and a favourite for victory on Sunday, was third quickest at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez and 0.123 off Bottas’ pace.
Verstappen leads Hamilton by 12 points with five races remaining.
On a dusty track, which did not host a grand prix last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Bottas lapped with a best time of one minute 18.341 seconds with seven times world champion Hamilton 0.076 slower.
Hamilton was summoned to the stewards after the session for running off and rejoining the track without going around a bollard.
Perez hit the tyre wall at the stadium complex after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had also spun there, damaging his rear wing.
The Mexican returned to the track later on and clocked the fourth fastest time.
Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly was fifth fastest and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz sixth.
McLaren, battling Ferrari for third place overall, had a difficult start at the high-altitude circuit with Australian Daniel Ricciardo 14th and Britain’s Lando Norris 15th.
“Not an easy session for us, drivers really struggling with the balance of the car and not getting the laps in,” said team boss Andreas Seidl.
“We have work to do. Ferrari definitely made a good step forward in the last two or three races and it will be tough to stay ahead but we will give it all.”