Russell dominates insignificant tries in Mexico City

Russell dominates insignificant tries in Mexico City

On a Friday marked by the sanctions imposed on Red Bull for having exceeded the 2021 budget cap, George Russell (Mercedes) dominated free practice at the Mexico Grand Prix which was insignificant because it was dedicated to testing the tires of the 2023 F1 cars.

It is rare this season to see Mercedes in the lead. And when the previously dominant team manages to do so, it is not necessarily indicative of its level of form, as on Friday at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

It was his British rookie Russell who took the best time (1:19.970) at the end of the day. But, like his pursuers Yuki Tsunoda and Estaban Ocon, 2nd and 3rd fastest in the 2nd session, he was able to use 2022 tires when the other drivers had to use 2023 prototype tires.

This extended session of an hour and a half (compared to an hour normally) was indeed a preparation for the supplier Pirelli before next season.

– Leclerc in the wall –

Russell, Tsunoda and Ocon were able to arm themselves with current tires to train before Sunday’s GP, as they had left their single-seaters to reserve drivers during the first session earlier on Friday.

Behind, it was Lewis Hamilton, also in a Mercedes, who took 4th place, closely followed by the Red Bulls of local hero Sergio Pérez, adored in the stands of the boiling “stadium”, and double world champion Max Verstappen.

Charles Leclerc, 7th time, stood out above all for making a mistake. In a left turn, the Monegasque from Ferrari lost control of his single-seater, spun before hitting the barriers from behind.

“I’m fine, but the car is not”, quickly reassured the 2nd in the championship in a radio communication.

Earlier Friday, Leclerc had finished 2nd in the first session, dominated by his teammate Carlos Sainz.

This first hour had been interrupted twice, due to mechanical problems for reserve drivers Liam Lawson (AlphaTauri) and Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas).

Other young drivers were present during the first hour: Australian Jack Doohan for Alpine and American Logan Sargeant for Williams. Just like the future driver of AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s satellite team, the 27-year-old Dutchman Nyck de Vries for Mercedes.

This year, the regulations require that each team must offer at least two sessions to young “rookies”.

– Double penalty for Red Bull –

But the day was mainly played on the financial field. The only team to have exceeded the 2021 budget ceiling, the year this rule came into force, then set at $ 145 million, Red Bull was penalized twice.

Financially, she must pay a fine of seven million dollars. Sportingly, it will see its development time for its single-seater in the wind tunnel reduced by 10% for one year.

But Red Bull escaped the worst: the FIA ​​decided not to take away any championship points retroactively. Verstappen therefore retains his title of world champion acquired last year.

After this ‘minor’ breach of the budget cap – 1.6% of the cap, or £1.864million – the sporting sanction will have a ‘direct effect’ on the development of next year’s car, the boss of Red Bull Christian Horner, referring to a “draconian” measure.