Mexican GP: Max Verstappen fastest in damp first practice

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Verstappen sets pace in first practice
Mexican Grand Prix coverage details
Venue: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez Dates: 30 Oct - 1 Nov
Coverage: Live text and radio commentary of all three days, plus TV highlights of qualifying and the race. Full details here.

Toro Rosso's Max Verstappen set the pace in first practice at the Mexican Grand Prix as new world champion Lewis Hamilton was 11th.

Verstappen, an 18-year-old rookie, was 0.305 seconds quicker than Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat as F1 returned to Mexico City for the first time since 1992.

The new surface at the remodelled Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez caused problems with a lack of grip.

Many drivers ran wide and some spun as they learned the circuit.

One of them was Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg, who went off the track when his brakes overheated and had flames pouring from both rear wheels as he returned his Mercedes to the pits.

Nico Rosberg
Nico Rosberg, whose championship hopes were extinguished in the US, suffered a spectacular rear brake failure

The German was fastest at the time, but ended the session sixth, 1.206secs off the pace after managing to get out on track for one further flying lap after Mercedes increased the car's brake cooling.

The high altitude of the track - which is at 2,229m - puts extra strain on the brakes because the cars are going quicker at the end of the straights as a result of the reduced drag and the brakes receive reduced cooling.

More of a problem in the first session was the lack of grip from the new track surface, exacerbated by a damp start to the session following overnight rain.

Verstappen was one of many demonstrate this - and his fastest time came on a lap on which he actually short-cut the Esses as a result of sliding wide. Had it been an official timed session, the lap would not have counted.

Kvyat in second actually set the same time to the thousandth of a second as Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in third place, but the Russian was classified ahead as he set the time first.

Lewis Hamilton: F1 world champion wrestles in Mexico

Raikkonen's team-mate Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest, ahead of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

The Australian made it three Renault-engined cars in the top five, a surprising result given the track is expected to demand strong engine power for a team to be competitive and Renault are lagging behind rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.

It was yet another troubled session for McLaren-Honda.

Jenson Button managed only nine laps before the new, upgraded Honda engine fitted to his car for the first time developed a problem and he had to sit out the rest of the session.

The 2009 world champion was already going to have the engine changed before the second session, which starts at 20:00 GMT.

Button will take a massive grid penalty of at least 20 places, and possibly as many as 50 as a result of the two new engines he has been given and potentially other ancillary parts as well.

His team-mate Fernando Alonso, too, faces a grid penalty of 15 places, for a new engine and a new gearbox.

Alonso, who had been running strongly in the early laps on the gripless track, also managed only one run before McLaren discovered a cut on one of his medium-compound Pirellis.

Not wanting to risk sending him out again on the same tyres until they knew what had caused the malfunction, he did one more short run on intermediate tyres to check a change on the car.

First Practice results

Mexican Grand Prix coverage details

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