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Formula 1: George Russell dominates Mexico testing, Charles Leclerc hits the wall

Formula 1: George Russell dominates Mexico testing, Charles Leclerc hits the wall

On a Friday marked by penalties for Red Bull for exceeding the 2021 budget cap, George Russell (Mercedes) dominated free practice at the Mexico Grand Prix which was insignificant as it was meant to test 2023 F1 tires.

It’s rare to see Mercedes in the lead this season. And when a formerly dominant team manages to do so, that doesn’t necessarily indicate how well they are doing, as was the case on Friday at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

It was fellow British rookie Russell who had the best time (1:19.970) at the end of the day. But, like his chasers Yuki Tsunoda and Estaban Okun, second and third fastest in session two, he was able to use 2022 tires when other drivers had to use prototype 2023 tyres.

This hour-and-a-half extended session (compared to a normal hour) was already in preparation for supplier Pirelli ahead of next season.

Leclerc in the wall

Russell, Tsunoda and Okon were able to arm themselves with the current tires for training ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix, leaving their individual seats to the reserve drivers during the first session earlier on Friday.

At the back was Lewis Hamilton, also in a Mercedes, who finished fourth, followed by the Red Bulls team of local champion Sergio Perez, beloved in the seething “pitch” stands, and two-time world champion Max Verstappen.

Charles Leclerc stood out, for the seventh time, above all for making a mistake. On a left turn, Ferrari’s Monegasque lost control of his single-seater, and damaged before hitting the barriers from behind.

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“I’m fine, but the car is not,” the second in the championship quickly reassured by radio.

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

This first watch was stopped twice, due to mechanical issues for reserve drivers Liam Lawson (Alpha Tauri) and Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas).

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

This year, the regulations require that each team must offer at least two courses for young recruits.

Double penalty kick for Red Bull

But today it is played mainly in the financial sphere. The only team that exceeded the 2021 budget cap, the year this rule went into effect and then was set at $145 million, Red Bull was penalized twice.

Financially, you must pay a fine of seven million dollars. Sportively, it would see its single-seater development time in a wind tunnel increase 10% for one year.

But Red Bull got away with the worst: the FIA ​​decided not to retroactively deduct championship points. So Verstappen retains the world champion title he got last year.

After this ‘small’ breach of the budget cap – 1.6 per cent of the cap, or £1.864m – the sporting penalty will have a ‘direct impact’ on the development of next year’s car, Red Bull boss Christian Horner noted, referring to a ‘severe’ measure cruelty.”