Austin FP1: Rosberg tops in the wet

Rosberg Austin rain

Lewis Hamilton kept his powder dry in a wet and largely meaningless first practice on Friday for a U.S. Grand Prix that could seal the Briton’s third Formula One world championship.

The Mercedes driver completed just four timed laps and ended up fifth overall, with team mate Nico Rosberg leading the timesheets.

Rosberg lapped more than a second faster than anyone else, the German’s best time of one minute 53.989 seconds comparing to the next quickest of 1:55.224 set by Russian Daniil Kvyat for Red Bull.

Red Bull’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo was third and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz fourth on a rain-soaked track with more wet weather expected in the afternoon and much heavier thunderstorms over the weekend.

Parts of Texas are on flood alert with talk of possible extreme rainfall in the Austin area on Saturday when qualifying takes place.

Further south, Mexico, which hosts the next round of the championship next weekend, is braced for the arrival of one of the most powerful storms in history with Hurricane Patricia heading towards the Pacific Coast.

Hamilton needs to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who has a 10 place grid penalty for Sunday’s race due to an engine change, by nine points and Rosberg by two to retain his title and become a triple champion.

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A Mercedes one-two, with Hamilton first, would do the trick and the Briton has a great record in Austin with two wins in the last three races there.

Friday’s session started wet, although conditions were changeable, but there were few incidents despite a couple of spins.

Finland’s Valtteri Bottas gave his pit crew a scare, forcing some mechanics to jump out of the way when he came in and skidded to a halt.

“Sorry for that,” he said over the radio as he departed again.

Vettel was sixth fastest, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen seventh and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen eighth.

Manor Marussia’s Alexander Rossi, who will be the first American to compete in a U.S. Grand Prix since 2007, was 18th of the 20 drivers.

United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas – Free Practice 1
Pos. No. Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:53.989 7
2 26 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Racing 1:55.224 +1.235s 6
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:55.592 +1.603s 10
4 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:55.667 +1.678s 8
5 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:55.693 +1.704s 4
6 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:55.710 +1.721s 10
7 33 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso 1:55.969 +1.980s 7
8 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:56.326 +2.337s 10
9 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:56.839 +2.850s 18
10 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:56.866 +2.877s 15
11 19 Felipe Massa Williams 1:57.081 +3.092s 13
12 11 Sergio Perez Force India 1:57.139 +3.150s 4
13 22 Jenson Button McLaren 1:57.495 +3.506s 20
14 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:57.518 +3.529s 4
15 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:58.319 +4.330s 10
16 36 Raffaele Marciello Sauber 1:59.431 +5.442s 19
17 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:59.743 +5.754s 18
18 53 Alexander Rossi Marussia 2:01.154 +7.165s 11
19 28 Will Stevens Marussia 2:01.907 +7.918s 13
20 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus 1