Vettel puts Ferrari into the mix in Mexico

Fri Oct 28, 2016 6:03pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel put Ferrari into the Mexican Grand Prix mix with the fastest practice lap on Friday while Lewis Hamilton laid down a marker in his title battle with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.

Triple champion Hamilton, 26 points behind Rosberg with three races remaining, had set the pace on a chilly and overcast morning at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with a lap of one minute 20.914 seconds.

Vettel ousted the Briton from the top in the afternoon, by just 0.004 of a second, with a lap of 1:19.790 on supersoft tyres that showed Ferrari are not about to let Sunday's race turn into another Mercedes duel.

It was the first time the Italian team had led a Formula One practice session since Belgium in August and Vettel was pumped up, calling McLaren's Fernando Alonso 'an idiot' after being slowed by the Spaniard.

"Maybe it was just me today, but I felt that I was actually in Mexico City, not on the race track, with a lot of traffic," said the four times champion.

"I think overall the pace was good, which was the more important thing. We can still improve for tomorrow, and then go from there."

A more competitive Ferrari could be good news for Hamilton if he can take the victory and have others finishing between him and Rosberg.

Rosberg, winner of nine races to Hamilton's seven so far this season, was seventh on the morning timesheets and 0.759 off Hamilton's pace but moved up to third in the afternoon -- albeit still 0.431 slower than his team mate.   Continued...

Ferrari Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany attends a news conference in Mexico City, Mexico, October 26, 2016. REUTERS/Henry Romero