Max Verstappen fastest in Mexican practice as teen Oliver Bearman makes history

Max Verstappen set the fastest time in practice for the Mexican Grand Prix as teenager Oliver Bearman made history by becoming the youngest British driver to take part in a Formula One weekend.

Verstappen denied Williams’ Alex Albon top spot by just 0.095 seconds at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City as home favourite Sergio Perez finished third, three tenths back.

Lando Norris was fourth for McLaren – half a second behind Verstappen – with Lewis Hamilton only 11th, one second off the pace in his Mercedes.

Bearman, 18, competing for American outfit Haas, ended his F1 debut in 15th, only 1.6 sec slower than Verstappen and three tenths adrift of Nico Hulkenberg – a veteran of 200 grands prix – in the other car. Bearman also finished one place ahead of double world champion Fernando Alonso.

F1 teams must run a rookie driver at least twice during the season and Chelmsford-born Bearman was handed his chance to impress, breaking the British record previously held by Norris.

Norris was three months shy of his 19th birthday when he took part in practice for McLaren in Belgium in 2018 before he was promoted to a race seat the following season. Bearman turned 18 in May.

The teenager, a member of the Ferrari academy, has taken four victories in F1’s feeder series Formula Two and is sixth in the standings ahead of next month’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

He is also expected to be given a second run for Haas at the Middle Eastern venue.

Hamilton was disqualified from last weekend’s United States Grand Prix after running an illegal floor on his Mercedes.

Hamilton finished a close second to Verstappen to provide him with hope he could challenge the all-conquering Dutchman here.

But the seven-time world champion struggled for pace at the venue which sits 2,200 metres above sea level.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton finished 11th in first practice (Fernando Llano/AP)

Hamilton’s team-mate George Russell was forced to miss the first running with Danish junior driver Frederik Vesti taking over. He finished 19th.

In all, five young drivers were fielded in the running with Bearman the fastest.

Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc finished fifth, with Oscar Piastri sixth for McLaren. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, sidelined from Thursday’s media sessions with a stomach bug, ended the running in seventh.