United States Grand Prix: Hamilton leads the way on top in first and second practice sessions
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News October 20, 2017 Updated: 6:01 PM
AUSTIN, Texas -- Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took the top spot in the first and second free practice session ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix as Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel struggle.
"It’s been an interesting day with lots of ups and downs in terms of how the track has moved around and how the car feels. But overall the car was feeling good. There are lots of areas we can improve on, but generally it feels like a solid platform and a solid start to the weekend. It was amazing to have so much support at the fan signing today and also arriving at the track yesterday. I seem to have a lot of support out here, which I am super grateful for. I’m excited to see everyone tomorrow," said Hamilton.
Hamilton set the tone taking the first session with time of 1:36.336, half a second clear of title rival Vettel in second. The Ferrari driver is hoping to bounce back after a difficult time during the Asian leg of the season which left him 59 points behind Hamilton in the championship.
In the second session Hamilton continued his strong form finishing on top and 0.524s ahead of Vettel. Vettel would drop to third in the second session after struggling with balance and losing the rear of his car at Turn 19. Vettel missed the majority of the session as the team tried to work out the balance issue with his car.
"I made a mistake taking too much risk and pushing too early. The track was quite slippery and I lost the rear under braking. So, we lost a set of tires, and then again, towards the end of the session, I felt that something was not right with the car. So, we checked a couple of times and now we are looking at the car to see if we can find something. I need to find the rhythm tomorrow and make sure everything’s in order," said Vettel
Red Bull's Max Verstappen finished fourth in the first session but stepped his game up and finished 0.397s behind Hamilton in the second session.
Red Bull steps into the weekend as a possible factor in the championship with their improved performance over the last three races.
Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third in the morning while dropping to fourth in the afternoon. McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne finished fifth but only finishing the afternoon in 15th.
Williams Felipe Massa was 0.2s behind Vandoorne in sixth in the first session but dropped two places in the second session. Vettel's teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who finished seventh in the morning was also struggling with balance in the second Ferrari but was able to move up one spot on the grid in sixth by the afternoon.
The Force India pair of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez along with their pink VJM10 lead the way as COTA turns pink this weekend in support of breast cancer awareness and research. The two drivers swapped positions between the two sessions as Ocon and Perez went eight and ninth in the morning then ninth and tenth in the afternoon.
“We can be quite happy about today’s work," Perez said. "We gathered a lot of data and we’re in a good place for the rest of the weekend, even if I wasn’t overly convinced about the development tyres we tried this morning. It’s going to be tight to be best of the rest, but I am confident we can do that: the car has been feeling good, especially in hotter conditions, so we have a good base to build on.”
Team Principle Otmar Szafnauer said “It’s been fantastic to see Austin turned pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s a cause that we have been supporting this season through our partnership with Breast Cancer Care and we are hugely grateful to BWT for making such a generous donation."
Carlos Sainz, who starts the weekend as a Renault driver hung around the top ten as he finished tenth in the first session then dropping to 11th ahead of his new teammate Nico Hulkenberg by 0.6s in the afternoon. Haas driver Kevin Magnussen took 11th in the morning finishing, 14th later in the day. The American team are hoping to turn out a good result at their home race this weekend.
Williams’ rookie driver Lance Stroll took 12th with Nico Hulkenberg in 13th. But, the second session would see Stroll drop down to 16th, 0.325s behind Vandoorne. WEC driver Brendon Hartley, who was dropped in to drive in place of Pierre Gasly kicked off his debut weekend finishing 14th as the New Zealander will get himself acclimated over the weekend.
After the session Hartley said “A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy. I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn."
Romain Grosjean took 15th in the second Haas in the morning followed by Daniel Ricciardo, who was able to improve ending the day in fifth. Grosjean, however, continued to have trouble with balance and ended the afternoon in 20th. Formula 2 driver Sean Gelael was able to get some time behind the wheel for Toro Rosso trading places with Daniil Kvyat, who will return to race for the team this weekend. Gelael finished 17th in the morning with Kvyat taking over and ending the afternoon in 13th.
Sauber's Marcus Ericsson finished 18th with 2017 F2 champion Charles Leclerc taking the first session in place of Pascal Wehrlein. Later, Ericsson would finish 19th with Wehrlein finishing ahead of his teammate in 18th.
Fernando Alonso finished the afternoon practice session in seventh after his car spent the morning in the garage as the team were working to fix a hydraulic issue.