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Formula 1’s new breed: Rookie drivers in Mexico

Once again a number of rookie drivers got an opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car at the 2022 Mexican GP, but how did they do?

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The first practice session at the 2022 Mexican Grand Prix had a vastly different look as five young drivers took to the track keen to impress team bosses for 2023 and beyond.

Although some already have Grand Prix drives for next year, others are still finalising their plans as to whether they will do another year in the feeder series or become a full-time third driver in Formula 1 and hope for a seat in 2024.

So how did the rookies get on the greasy surface of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and who still needed to return to the drawing board?

Nyck De Vries – Mercedes – 18th

Gap to teammate +3.683, replacing George Russell

With the pressure of finding a 2023 driver now a thing of the past, De Vries could use his FP1 outing as a glory run and a chance to get some experience around the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

De Vries’s opening stint was spent on the hard compound of tyres setting a 1:26.029 some two seconds down on countrymen Max Verstappen.

With De Vries being consigned to spending the session on the hards, he did improve later in the session producing a 1:24.582 as he ended his three-year stint with the team on a high.

“I am very happy we ended it well,” De Vries said afterwards. “I enjoyed the session; we had three great years together; actually, it was four, but the first year was a bit unofficial, but yeah, we had a good time together.

“I am very grateful for all of the opportunities the team gave me. I’ve learned a lot, built many personal relationships, and am looking forward to the next chapter in my career.”

Jack Doohan – Alpine –  19th

Gap to teammate +3.716, replacing Esteban Ocon

With Doohan being the first Alpine young driver to get an FP1 run, hopes were high for the Australian, who started the session on the hards.

But Doohan was quickly on the pace, setting a time just over a tenth slower than regular driver Fernando Alonso.

Although Alonso switched to the softs, Doohan was kept on the hards producing a time of 1:24.615 and was just over three seconds down on Carlos Sainz.

Doohan’s day ended with less than 10 minutes left after the team spotted anomalies in the powerunit bringing the young Australian back in as a precaution. Still, despite this late hiccup, Doohan was grateful for the opportunity.

“I just have to say a big thank you to Alpine and all the boys and girls for giving me this opportunity,” Doohan said. 

“It will be something I cherish forever, and obviously, we had a small issue at the first run that meant we couldn’t continue, but I am still very grateful for the laps I got, and it was an amazing experience.”

Liam Lawson – Alpha Tauri – 16th

Gap to teammate +1.602, replacing Yuki Tsunoda

Lawson’s second FP1 started quietly being sent out on the hards before coming back in without setting a time.

Later Lawson was sent back out just 20 minutes into the session, banking a time of 1:26.346 on the hards before setting a 1:24.263 on his next set of runs.

As the session went on, Lawson got master managing to break into the 1:23s, putting him at the front of the rookies despite a small excursion at Turn 4. However, his session ended on a whimper, with brake problems forcing him to stop the car.

“It’s been great to be back on track with Scuderia AlphaTauri after my last shot out in Spa,” Lawson explained.  

“This time we played a bit more with set-up changes, as the more I drive the car, the more accurate feedback I can give. Sadly, we had to stop because we had a loss of pressure. However, I was able to complete most of the session anyway, so it didn’t impact too much.”

Logan Sargeant – Williams – 17th

Gap to teammate +1.334, replacing Alex Albon

For his second outing, Sargeant could use his second consecutive FP1 session to help find the limits of a modern-day Grand Prix car before his expected Grand Prix debut in 2023.

Sargeant spent the opening five minutes of the session in the garage but was released out on the track with less than 10 minutes gone in the session. When he did go out, Sargeant had a scare at the Foro Sol section going too hot into turn 12, fortunately without incident, and his opening time was 1:26.183.

At half distance, Sargeant was kept on the hards spending five laps on a fresh set of tyres and managed a 1:25.504 before the session was red-flagged because of Pietro Fittipaldi’s stranded Haas.

Once the session restarted, Sargeant continued to improve, breaking into the 1:24s but over four-tenths down on Lawson in the Alpha Tauri.

“I think the two red flags didn’t help, to be honest,” Sargeant said. “I think we did everything we could; we completed a lot of laps, we were running as much as we could, and it was just unfortunate, I guess.

“I was definitely a lot more comfortable coming into today; everything slowed a lot; it was a lot easier to build into a rhythm to learn the track and just start to build up to it; yeah, all in all, it was a good step up.”

Pietro Fittipaldi – Haas – 20th

Gap to teammate +4.814, replacing Kevin Magnussen

The most experienced of the five, Fittipaldi, like the rest of the session on the hards, setting a time of 1:26.766, over a second slower than regular driver Mick Schumacher’s time of 1:25.547.

But that was as good as it got for the Brazilian as with just over 22 minutes left in the session, his Ferrari power unit cried enough, and Fittipaldi was forced to park up at Turn one, his session over.

“It was good to get back in the car; obviously, it was only for a few laps,” Fittipaldi, “but it was good to get the feeling of driving a Formula 1 car on a different track, which is an amazing circuit.”

“I was happy that I was able to get back into the rhythm quickly in the car and feel good and confident. It was a short FP1, but at least I got a run in, and in Abu Dhabi, I can come back into the car warmed up.”

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