Red Bull’s Max Verstappen set an imposing pace in Friday practice at the Mexico City Grand Prix.
The world championship leader was 0.424 seconds quicker than Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen’s title rival Lewis Hamilton 0.509secs off the pace.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by 12 points before Sunday’s race.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fourth quickest, ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was seventh, ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
The day’s running produced the expected picture of pace at the front – Verstappen a strong favourite for race victory and Hamilton and Mercedes facing a race of damage limitation.
After lagging half a second or so behind on a single flying lap, Hamilton and Bottas appeared to be a similar sort of margin behind on the race-simulations runs in the second part of the session.
These were not directly comparable, as the two teams were using different tyres.
Verstappen was on the mediums and Mercedes on the softs. The Dutchman was not only quicker on average, but also right from the start of the run, when the grippier but shorter-lived tyres on the Mercedes car should have had an advantage on the initial laps of the run.
The good news for Mercedes, such as it was, is that Hamilton and Bottas were second and third quickest.
Perez was close to them but unable to beat them, and the Ferraris, which had been expected to be more competitive at this track, were more than a second off the pace.
This is the first of five races in six weekends that will bring the F1 season to a close.
Mercedes have always thought this would be a difficult weekend for them, because their car and engine do not work as well at the 2,200m altitude at which the track is situated as the Red Bull and its Honda power-unit.
McLaren’s Lando Norris was 12th fastest and Williams driver George Russell last having set no time because of a gearbox problem.