Aussie youngster Jack Doohan has made his official F1 debut, driving the Alpine of Esteban Ocon in the opening practice session at the Mexico City Grand Prix.
Doohan, the son of legendary five-time 500cc motorcycling World Champion Mick Doohan, competes for Alpine’s junior program in Formula 2, where he currently sits fourth.
He remains an outside chance to replace Fernando Alonso in F1 next year, with Alpine prioritising a driver that can score points from the off over a youngster needing time to develop.
But he was laid low by engine issues in his F1 bow, completing just 13 laps before being forced to return to the garage. He finished the session second-last.
His appearance at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will be followed by a second F1 run in the final FP1 session of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Carlos Sainz outpaced teammate Charles Leclerc to top the times as Ferrari delivered a one-two in Friday’s opening practice at the Mexico Grand Prix.
The Spaniard clocked a fastest lap in 1min 20.707sec to beat his Monegasque partner by 0.046sec, ahead of local hero Sergio Perez and his Red Bull teammate and two-time world champion Max Verstappen.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton was fifth for Mercedes ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Alpine in a session hit by two red flag interventions.
Valtteri Bottas was seventh for Alfa Romeo ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin’s two-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
The session was preceded by a morning of frantic activity in the paddock following the FIA’s long-awaited announcement of Red Bull’s sanctions for exceeding the $145 million cost-cap last year – a fine of $7 million and a 10 per cent reduction in their wind tunnel activity.
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner launched a feisty defence of his team at a news conference, claiming the punishments were ‘enormous’ and ‘draconian’ while rivals suggested they were not severe enough to act as a deterrent.
On the track, Vettel was first out of the pits to lead five reserve and test drivers into action including Australian Jack Doohan replacing Esteban Ocon at Alpine, Dutchman Nyck de Vries at Mercedes for Russell, New Zealand’s Liam Lawson at Alpha Tauri and Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of two-time F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi, at Haas.
The guests found it difficult to ease their way in on a ‘green’ track and struggled to make much impression.
Verstappen showed immediate speed to go top ahead of Perez, but was displaced by Leclerc after 25 minutes and then, after 36, by Sainz, before successive red flags for Fittipaldi, who stopped at Turn Two, and Lawson, who pulled up with smoking brakes.