A rain-hit Saturday seems to be what exactly Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton needed to begin the Formula 1 United States GP weekend. The championship leader, who is looking to clinch his fifth wprld drivers’ championship this weekend at Austin, led Friday with stellar performances on a wet Circuit Of The Americas (COTA).
The British driver led his teammate Valtteri Bottas in FP1 with a 1.3-second margin and was 1 second quicker than Toro Rosso‘s Pierre Gasly in the afternoon, with heavier rain causing most of the drivers to set their fastest laps near the end of the session.
Takeaways from Friday Practice
Both free practice sessions were in wet conditions, FP2 had less on-track action but was significant too. As both Mercedes cars were able to put fastest lap times in shorter stints in both sessions, Ferrari struggled throughout the day.
The Pirelli tyre choice for this race, for dry conditions, are the yellow-striped soft tyre, the red-striped supersoft tyre, and the purple-striped ultrasoft tyre.
Sebastian Vettel had a difficult day. The German finished fifth and tenth in FP1 and FP2, respectively. Kimi Raikkonen, in the other Ferrari, was sixth and ninth in the two practice sessions.
Vettel’s weekend is heavily compromised after he was handed a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down sufficiently under red-flag condition after Charles Leclerc spun off the track and forced a red flag during FP1.
The main takeaways from the two practice sessions were:
- Ferrari is struggling to find pace in wet conditions, which might cause bigger problems for Saturday’s qualifying since it is expected to be under wet conditions.
- Vettel must look for an unlikely fastest time on Saturday to start the race a minimum in fourth place. Ferrari has not shown great speed, but the Italian squad might turn things around for qualifying, as they have done many times during the course of the season.
- Hamilton seems to be in control of his car and looks dominating. The English driver only had nine laps during the two Friday sessions and stamped his authority on the timesheets.
- Red Bull was strong on Friday. Max Verstappen was third in FP1 and FP2. Daniel Ricciardo only had timed laps in FP1 and marked the fourth fastest time of the session.
- Gasly was the welcomed surprise of the day. After not competing in last year’s race at Austin due to his duties in the Japanese Super Formula Championship, the Frenchman finished a strong second place in FP2 behind Hamilton.
- McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was great during FP2 and put his car in fourth place after reaching the eleventh spot in FP1. Lando Norris took part in FP1 and ended up 12th, while Stoffel Vandoorne was eighth in FP2.
- Force India did not do well. Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez could not reach the top ten in any of the two sessions.
- Sauber‘s Marcus Ericsson and Leclerc had a solid day. Ericsson was tenth and seventh respectively. The Monegasque finished ninth and 11th during the two events.
- Renault had two good results, one by each of their drivers in each of the two sessions. In FP1, Carlos Sainz went seventh fastest, while Nico Hulkenberg took fifth place in FP2.
The Last Word
Results of FP1:
|3||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:48.847||+1.345s||9|
|4||3||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:49.326||+1.824s||9|
|13||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:51.234||+3.732s||19|
|14||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:51.459||+3.957s||18|
|17||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:51.655||+4.153s||17|
|20||38||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:52.625||+5.123s||21|
Results of FP2:
|2||10||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:49.728||+1.012s||10|
|3||33||RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER||1:49.798||+1.082s||5|
|6||28||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||1:52.505||+3.789s||19|
|13||11||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:54.963||+6.247s||6|
|14||31||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||1:55.348||+6.632s||6|
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