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Morning After: The first domino falls

If Lewis Hamilton wants to seal the deal this weekend in Austin, suffice to say he’s off to a good start.

Two sessions, two time toppers, Sebastian Vettel a half-second adrift and struggling to keep it on the track. About as good as it gets for a Friday, really.

Of course there’s certainly more to come from Vettel and the Scuderia, but it’s apparent Hamilton has already found his groove, and that’s particularly ominous given how much he likes it around here.

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Of the five races at CoTA, Hamilton has won four of them – given his dominance on Friday, who would bet against a fifth?

First domino falls as Verstappen extends with Red Bull

It’s official: Max Verstappen is a Red Bull driver through 2020… probably.

Announced prior to the start of first practice, the move goes at least some way to assuaging concerns the prodigious young Dutchman would high-tail it for greener pastures at the first opportunity. However, as we well know, contracts in F1 mean about as much as a ‘best fans’ proclamation from Lewis Hamilton.

It’s highly unlikely Verstappen’s deal doesn’t include some sort of escape clause should Red Bull continue to be out of championship contention, but hey, it’s better than nothing.

Funnily enough, the real winner here might actually be his teammate, Daniel Ricciardo. His own future with Red Bull uncertain, he now becomes the commodity of the 2018 (or ’19) driver market. As things stand he could have his pick of teams with Kimi Raikkonen likely not long for Ferrari, and Valtteri Bottas potentially heading the same way should he continue to underachieve for Mercedes.

Realistically his biggest opposition is now Fernando Alonso, although his history with the Scuderia and Hamilton probably hurts his appeal. Of course, a lot can change in a year or two, but things have to look pretty good from where the Aussie is sitting.

Quick Hits

  • A solid showing from Brendon Hartley in his F1 debut, although it’s fair to wonder just how much his 1.2s advantage to Sean Gelael in FP1 was his doing, and how much was down to the continually underwhelming Indonesian
  • Few drivers seem to draw the ire of their peers quite like Kevin Magnussen, who was naturally at it again on Friday, getting a little too aggressive with both Romain Grosjean and Sebastian Vettel – love it or loathe it, the Dane simply DGAF
  • On the topic of Haas, their stars-and-stripes on the rear-wing endplates brings a lovely touch of ‘Murica to what is a generally drab livery, and should be kept beyond their home race
  • Is being three seconds late worthy of a $10,000 fine? Let’s just hope none of these stewards become librarians