Nico Rosberg bounced back from his disappointment in Texas to top the times in Friday’s second free practice for this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.
Five days after failing to stop his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton from clinching his third world title, the 30-year-old German proved he is determined to wipe out memories of Austin by beating him to gain some satisfaction in his bid to finish runner-up in the championship.
Rosberg clocked a fastest lap of one minute and 21.531 seconds to outpace nearest rival Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull by two-tenths of a second in a busy session that saw many drivers struggling for grip and spinning on the high-altitude, low-grip surface of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
“It is great to be here and to learn a new track and visit a new country,” said Rosberg.
“They have done a really good job and today was a good day for me. It was fun.”
Asked if he was motivated to make sure he finished second in the championship, Rosberg then narrowed his eyes.
“No, my motivation is to beat the guy next to me,” said Rosberg.
That guy, of course, is Hamilton whose success in Texas left Rosberg feeling bitter disappointment and anger, an emotion he has struggled to shake off as his teammate revelled in his celebrations.
“It’s challenging,” said Hamilton, of the circuit, with a broad grin.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo was third in the second Renault-powered Red Bull ahead of Hamilton, in the second Mercedes, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.
Valtteri Bottas, who smashed the front wing off his Williams in a high-speed off-track excursion, was seventh ahead of two-time world champion Fernando Alonso and his McLaren team-mate, 2009 champion Jenson Button of McLaren.
Button, running with a new Honda engine, is expected to have a 20-25 place grid penalty, or more, for Sunday’s race as he plans to run with another new engine from Saturday.
Felipe Massa was 10th in the second Williams.
At the bottom of the order, Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who topped the times in the opening session in the morning, failed to clock a lap time after he crashed on his opening lap in the second session in his Toro Rosso.
“It was like my first lap, I was not even pushing, just warming up the tyres and then suddenly I just lost it,” he said.
Hamilton was also among the spinners as the conditions changed from wet to damp to dry and then wet again, when it rained in the closing stages.
Verstappen, 18, was not even born when Nigel Mansell won the last Formula One race in Mexico City in a Williams in 1992.