Pastor Maldonado was the first to lap the Mexican Grand Prix circuit 23 years since the last one ahead of team-mate Jolyon Palmer, while Romain Grosjean’s day was more stop-start.
The challenges of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit went beyond being a mouthful to say. It was a new track for all Formula 1 drivers and the fresh tarmac combined with yesterday’s rainfall made for a slippery encounter.
“The track was good if a little slippery,” said Pastor. “It’s a new surface and the track improved a lot as it went on, it was difficult to begin with and some of us had a few moments out there! The track will improve and it’ll help us as we go in the weekend.”
Those moments featured several drivers getting caught out on track, and the improving conditions presented Jolyon and Pastor with an opportunity to rack up the laps.
Pastor’s laps were mostly dedicated to aero tests, with an aero-rake attached for some of his running in the morning, while Jolyon continued his development ahead of graduating into a race seat in 2016.
Another new track learnt for the 2014 GP2 champion was made all the more exciting by the lack of diesel spills, monsoon rain or anything else the elements could throw at him, meaning he was able to get to grips with a demanding track.
It’s a fairly distinctive circuit but as always you learn a new layout pretty quickly,” said Jolyon. “I was able to push quite early, even if sometimes you don’t exactly adhere to the correct line whilst you’re learning the limits.”
Romain had the benefit of a dryer track to discover the Mexican Grand Prix circuit, and showed impressive early pace alongside Pastor.
Frustratingly, the Frenchman was unable to build on a good starting point as a gearbox issue side-lined him from any further meaningful running.
“It was really frustrating to have a gearbox issue in the middle of my single session today,” he said. “I’m sure we can get the gearbox sorted and rack-up some more laps ahead of qualifying.”
Pastor meanwhile continued a good day’s work into the afternoon, finding gains on the circuit as the day went on as well as clocking up a good number of laps.
The Venezuelan was pleased with progress, and was impressed with the Mexican circuit.
“It’s very challenging and technical, if you miss one corner it actually affects several of them,” he said. “In high speed corners it’s easy to lose control. We had some work to do on balance and braking but the car felt pretty good. I’m looking forward to see how much progress we can make with the car then getting out and pushing hard in qualifying.”
With eyes turning to qualifying, Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane enjoyed the environment of Mexico’s return and was happy with the team’s progress.
“The latest iteration of the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez certainly gives us an interesting challenge but in terms of facilities and the welcome we’ve received is exemplary,” he said. “We have a decent amount of work to do refining set-up but we have a strong starting point.”