Friday Practices Sessions Kick Off Mexican Grand Prix Weekend

After competing on home soil last weekend in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, Haas F1 Team headed south to Mexico City for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. It marks another home race of sorts for the American team, as driver Esteban Gutiérrez is from Monterrey, Mexico.

Gutiérrez and teammate Romain Grosjean had two 90-minute practice sessions (FP1 and FP2) on Friday to begin dialing in their racecars for qualifying on Saturday and the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday. Both drivers ran the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires exclusively in FP1, which featured a slippery track surface amid cool temperatures.

Their first runs at full tilt were interrupted by a red-flag stoppage with less than an hour remaining when the front wing of Felipe Nasr’s Sauber disintegrated, scattering debris across the exit of turn 11. Grosjean was 13th fastest at this point with eight laps on the board, his best being a 1:24.415. Gutiérrez was 18th quickest after running seven laps, with a best time of 1:24.993.

Once the red flag was lifted, Grosjean and Gutiérrez went back to work, using the remainder of FP1 to enhance the balance of their respective Haas VF-16s. They continued on the same program, returning to the 4.304-kilometer (2.674-mile), 17-turn circuit on a new set of Yellow softs.

Each driver completed two stints before the end of the session. Grosjean made a seven-lap run on the new softs followed by a six-lap run on used softs. Gutiérrez performed two eight-lap runs using the same tire strategy.

Grosjean’s best time of the session was a 1:22.500, earned on his 14th lap. Gutiérrez’s best time in FP1 was a 1:22.910, secured on his 15th lap. Grosjean ran a total of 21 laps and Gutiérrez tallied 23 laps, and they ranked 11th and 15th fastest, respectively at the end of the session.

Fastest in FP1 was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. His quick time of 1:20.914 was .079 of a second better than next-fastest Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari. Hamilton’s teammate and championship point leader Nico Rosberg was a distant seventh in FP1.

Two-and-a-half hours later, cars returned to the track for FP2.

Gutiérrez headed out straight away for flying laps on a new set of Yellow softs. Grosjean, meanwhile, was confined to the garage after his installation lap revealed an irregularity with his car’s ECU (Electronic Control Unit). Troubleshooting the problem took some time, to the extent the floor of the car needed to be removed. Eventually, the ECU was replaced, the car was put back together and Grosjean was able to get on track, albeit with only 26 minutes remaining in FP2.

Gutiérrez, meanwhile, was making the most of his drive on his home turf. Twenty-six minutes into the session, he was atop the charts in the speed trap with a top speed of 360.1 kph (223.8 mph).

After turning seven laps on the Yellow softs, Gutiérrez donned a set of Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires as he and the team switched to their qualifying setup. Despite the supersofts being the grippiest tires in Pirelli’s lineup, Gutiérrez struggled to find traction. Oversteer was his biggest challenge and upon going wide at turn one with six laps on the supersofts, Gutiérrez returned to the garage.

With a used set of Yellow softs, Gutiérrez returned to the track with a tick over 30 minutes remaining. A mock pit stop was performed with less than 15 minutes to go, and Gutiérrez ran the rest of the session on a used set of Red supersofts. His best time was a 1:22.408, earned on his 10th lap, which placed him 22nd overall.

When Grosjean returned to the track, he went directly into qualifying mode. With Red supersofts under him, Grosjean wrangled all he could from his truncated session. He made a four-lap run before coming back into the pits, as it was nearly impossible to find a large enough gap on the racetrack to make a clean lap. With time in short supply, the team made a handful of adjustments to the car, including filling it with fuel. The Red supersofts stayed on, and Grosjean knocked down 10 more laps before the session ended. His best time was a 1:22.105, earned on his fourth lap to place him 20th overall.

Leading the way in FP2 was Vettel, whose quick time of 1:19.790 outpaced Hamilton by a scant .004 of a second. Rosberg trailed his Mercedes teammate in third, .435 of second behind Vettel.

Between the two sessions, Haas F1 Team ran a total of 91 laps – 35 by Grosjean and 56 by Gutiérrez.

Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team

“The morning wasn’t too bad, but our afternoon was disastrous. It’s up to us to work around that. When we have problems like this on Friday, it tends to cost us on Sunday. Granted, we still have tomorrow, but we need to make the most of it in light of everything we dealt with today.”

Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team

“It was great to get to know my home circuit. It’s very exciting to be here and to drive the track, which is amazing, in front of all the Mexican fans. We’re going to have to keep working on the performance side of things, which isn’t great at the moment. The car was difficult to drive during FP2 and had little grip. We’ll be working on that tonight to try to sort out our setup and make things better for FP3 and qualifying.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

“FP1 was a pretty good session for both Romain and Esteban and we managed to get all of our program completed. FP2, however, was not what we wanted. Romain had an immediate problem with the ECU and that stopped us. We had to change a lot of the electronic equipment, which left him with only the last 30 minutes of the session. So, we couldn’t get everything done that we needed to do. With Esteban, he had no grip in comparison to FP1 and was just sliding around out there. We will be looking into this to see what we can find out and, hopefully, find a solution for FP3 tomorrow.”

Next Up

Drivers have one more practice session on Saturday (10:00-11:00) before qualifying starts at 13:00. Qualifying consists of three rounds, with the 16 fastest drivers from Q1 moving on to Q2. Then, the 10 fastest drivers from Q2 advance to Q3 where they’ll battle for the pole.

This article contains: Mexican Grand Prix