United States GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

The next step

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton 

 © RV Press

By Dan Knutson in Austin

Lewis Hamilton took the next step towards clinching his fourth world championship by posting the fastest lap time in Free Practice 1 for the United States Grand Prix. Championship rival Sebastian Vettel was half a step and half a second behind Hamilton.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes – Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Renault – Daniil Kvyat and Brendon Hartley; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

There had been several driver changes since the Japanese Grand Prix. Sainz had replaced Jolyon Palmer at Renault. Kvyat was back in the Toro Rosso alongside Brendon Hartley. The latter was making his F1 debut and standing in for Pierre Gasly who was off racing in the Super Formula series finale in Japan.

On the reserve driver front, Sean Gelael drove Kvyat's Toro Rosso in FP1, and Charles Leclerc was in Wehrlein's Sauber.

Vandoorne and Vettel were the first out. The drivers were on Pirelli's intermediate rain tire as the track was wet from a light drizzle that had fallen earlier.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Centigrade).

Most drivers did one or two installation laps and pitted. But a few did flying laps, with Hamilton quickest after posting a 1:50.146.

It was still drizzling lightly.

"The track is quite slippery," Verstappen, who had just signed a new deal to keep him at Red Bull through 2020, radioed.

Gelael emphasized that fact by sliding off the track Ricciardo and Ocon also had harmless spins.

Half an hour into the session the racing line was starting to dry and more drivers set times, the fastest being Verstappen with a 1:47.922. Massa beat that with a 1:47.692.

The time was getting close to switch to slicks. Pirelli's compound choices for the weekend were the ultra soft, super soft and soft.

The first was Vettel who got down to a 1:45.960 on the super softs, but he said the track was still too wet for slicks.

At the 40-minute break, the order was: Vettel, Massa, Verstappen, Vandoorne, Sainz, Ocon, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Hamilton and Ricciardo. Only Vettel had done a time on slicks. And Alonso had done no time at all.

When things got rolling again, so did Ricciardo who chopped 5.6 seconds off Vettel's time with a lap of 1:40.297 using the super soft slicks. Next Ricciardo did a 1:39.366.

Now more and more drivers were using the slicks, with Hamilton on top of them all with a 1:36.935.

With just under 30 minutes remaining, the top six were Hamilton, now at a 1:36.335, Bottas, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez and Ricciardo.

While Hamilton didn't improve his time, he stayed on top. Others improved, and Vettel, Bottas, Verstappen, Vandoorne, Massa, Raikkonen, Ocon, Perez and Sainz rounded out the top 10 at the end of FP1.


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