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Friday Analysis: Who has the edge in Mexico City?

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As Formula 1 returned to Mexico City for the Mexican Grand Prix, as expected; surprises loomed in the horizon. The lack of grip on the newly rebuilt circuit, the high demand of downforce and the seemingly high altitude is set to put the modern F1 turbo-power units to test. 

Friday in Mexico saw plenty of running unsurprisingly, as drivers were keen to get track experience, on which was a track that all but one driver on the grid has never driven on. Home man, Sergio Perez is the only one on the grid to have driven on the Autodrom Hermanos Rodriguez, during a support event a few years ago. Despite the sudden change, it wasn’t enough to get Mercedes’ charge to an end; at the end of Friday Practice 2, it was Nico Rosberg who had just managed to edge the Red Bull’s out, just before the rain arrived. Whilst in the First Practice, Mercedes driver: Nico Rosberg encountered brake issues, and had to sit out for some 30 minutes in the morning session, and it was Max Verstappen who for the first time topped an F1 session, yet be it with corner cutting.

Red Bull in the race for pole?

Arguably could be said that the Red Bull being prime opposition to the Mercedes cars wasn’t expected at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix. The very long pit-straight with speeds excessive of 360 KM/PH were set to upset the Red Bull, with the Renault power unit. However its dominance through the middle and final sector is looking so great, which inevitably is paying off for the first sector- lack of straight-line speed. The Red Bull was the second fastest car in the middle sector, and the fastest around the final sector; and unless Mercedes are hiding some of their invincible pace, it is game on between the two teams.

McLaren-Honda surprises?   

As the two drivers said before the start of the weekend, that they expect the Mexican Grand Prix to be one of the ‘toughest’ races of the season. The outlook may just look a bit, and in the same scenario as Red Bull-Renault. As expected, the Honda powered McLaren is not on rails with the front-runners during the first sector speed traps, and the Honda engine is reportedly 20 MPH down on the fastest speed-trap time; set by the Mercedes. It is their brilliant produced chassis that is paying of for their lack of power and straight-line speed. Practice 2 was where McLaren-Honda’s best performance was seen, with Alonso in P8, just 1.4 seconds shy of Rosberg’s lap, whilst Button was in ninth, and a tenth further back. With the seemingly invincible qualifying-simulation performance for McLaren, the team will be looking forward for their first Q3 appearance of the season.

Toro Rosso the dark horse?    

It was an up and down Friday for Toro Rosso, Verstappen was fastest in the first session, despite cutting a corner on his fastest lap. The Dutchman however crashed before he even set a timed lap in FP2, and has left a chunk of work to do for Saturday Morning. It could be argued that Verstappen’s pace wasn’t legitimate in FP1 due to corner cutting, however looking at his second fastest lap, which was a clean lap; it was just a few tenths slower. However, during FP2 the pendulum didn’t remain in their favor, Verstappen had his early crash, and Sainz could only manage P13. The team hope to rectify problems, and be back out on Saturday with a much stronger package; and targeting a top 6 finish would be very realistic for the Italian outfit, after Verstappen’s incredible fourth place finish at Austin