Austin FP1: Hamilton strikes first

lewis hamilton f1

Lewis Hamilton made a quick start to his U.S. Grand Prix preparations with the fastest time in first Friday practice for a key race in the title battle with Mercedes team mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg.

The triple world champion lapped the Circuit of the Americas, in gusty conditions, putting in a best time of 1:37.428 seconds late in the session to knock the German off the top.

Rosberg, the title favourite who leads the Briton by 33 points with four races remaining, was second on the time sheets and 0.315 of a second slower.

Hamilton has won three of the last four races in Austin, taking his third title at the Texan track last year, but he desperately needs another victory on Sunday to revive his flagging hopes of a fourth crown.

Even that will not be enough if Rosberg finishes the remaining races in the runner-up position, and the German has said he is not about to settle for second best as he chases a 10th win of the year.

Red Bull’s Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was third fastest – albeit a whopping two seconds down on Hamilton’s benchmark time with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen fourth and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg fifth.

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Verstappen’s best time was still 1.6 seconds slower than Rosberg, albeit on medium tyres, with Mercedes – who clinched their third successive constructors’ title in Japan two weeks ago – on softs and again in a battle of their own.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, like Hamilton a past winner in Austin, was only eighth fastest. The German hit a kerb, smashing bodywork, and drove back to the pits one-handed while holding the remnants of his right side mirror in the other.

Britain’s Jordan King made his Formula One practice debut with Manor Racing, setting the 20th fastest time out of 22, while Germany’s Pascal Wehrlein sitting out the session before returning in the afternoon.

Three drivers – Hulkenberg, Manor’s Esteban Ocon and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas – tried out the new ‘halo’ head protection device on their cars early in the session.

United States Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas – Friday, Free Practice 1

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME GAP LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:37.428 25
2 6 Nico Rosberg MERCEDES 1:37.743 +0.315s 27
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:39.379 +1.951s 28
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:39.407 +1.979s 21
5 27 Nico Hulkenberg FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:39.712 +2.284s 27
6 77 Valtteri Bottas WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:39.776 +2.348s 30
7 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:39.963 +2.535s 26
8 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:39.988 +2.560s 15
9 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:40.131 +2.703s 16
10 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO FERRARI 1:40.140 +2.712s 26
11 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:40.191 +2.763s 27
12 12 Felipe Nasr SAUBER FERRARI 1:40.287 +2.859s 16
13 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:40.362 +2.934s 26
14 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:40.826 +3.398s 15
15 21 Esteban Gutierrez HAAS FERRARI 1:40.970 +3.542s 15
16 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:41.170 +3.742s 17
17 34 Alfonso Celis FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:41.422 +3.994s 27
18 22 Jenson Button MCLAREN HONDA 1:41.663 +4.235s 21
19 20 Kevin Magnussen RENAULT 1:41.942 +4.514s 22
20 42 Jordan King MRT MERCEDES 1:42.012 +4.584s 29
21 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:42.332 +4.904s 31
22 31 Esteban Ocon MRT MERCEDES 1:43.874 +6.446s 27