Max Verstappen set the fastest time in the first and only practice session for the 2023 United States Grand Prix, but Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton were close behind.
The triple Formula 1 Champion however did not enjoy a huge margin over Leclerc who was second fastest in the Ferrari while Hamilton was third.
The seven-time F1 Champion seemed to be in a good place in his W14, equipped with a new floor, and should’ve been closer to the top had it not been for a mistake on his final flying lap where went wide at Turn 12.
Also worth noting that Verstappen made a mistake on his flying lap which may have cost him a tenth or two.
Nevertheless, if those three can maintain their form, chances are that we would be treated to quite a thrilling qualifying for Sunday’s grand prix.
McLaren were way off the pace, Lando Norris in 15th, Oscar Piastri in 19th, but it should be noted that they did not set any time on the Soft tyres, but the MCL60 did not seem very happy around the Circuit of the Americas.
Buildup towards FP1
After a weekend off, the F1 circus was back in full swing for the 2023 Unites States Grand Prix in Austin with both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships sealed by Verstappen and Red Bull Racing.
That was not a surprise as Verstappen’s form since Miami in particular meant the Title will be sealed with races to spare, and the Dutchman could’ve done that even earlier had it not been to his nightmare Singapore Grand Prix.
But let’s look at the positives. McLaren, with Norris and Piastri are showing us how they are getting better with every race, especially Piastri who won the Sprint in Qatar and keeps getting better with every extra mile he spends in the MCL60.
So how much ground with the Woking squad cover from now till the end of the season? Can the beat Aston Martin? Can they beat Ferrari? How will those two fight back?
Daniel Ricciardo will make his return to racing after breaking his hand in Zandvoort. How will the Aussie get on? Will he suffer after his injury? Will he be on it from the word go?
The Circuit of the Americas does not have the same characteristics as the Lusail International Circuit, so expect the pecking order – behind Red Bull that it – to be shuffled, as Norris also claims he doesn’t feel confident this weekend.
It will also be a Sprint weekend, so it would be worth seeing whether Austin can deliver an exciting Saturday show like the one Qatar delivers.
As for the tyres, Pirelli has brought the C2 (Hard), C3 (Medium), and C4 (Soft) this weekend.
Saddle up, it’s time to go racing in the Lone Star State. Yeehah! 🤠
We might be in the final part of the season, but some teams are still bringing upgrades, as Mercedes brought a new floor body and a new edge to their W14.
Alfa Romeo have a new floor edge as well, while Aston Martin have brought a more significant package, with the AMR23 featuring a new floor edge, a new diffuser, a new engine cover, and a revised beam wing.
But Haas and AlphaTauri have gone all out with their upgrades, the former finally unleashing the much needed upgrade package Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen were yearning to have.
The American outfit, for their second home race this season have brought a radically different VF-23 that now adopts the Red Bull philosophy with a new front brake duct, a new floor body and floor edge.
The Haas as new sidepod inlets, a new engine cover, and new cooling louvres, not to mention their special liver for Austin.
As for AlphaTauri, on the other hand, have a new floor body, new floor fences, new floor edge, a new engine cover, while the team modified the forward chassis lower surfaces, while the BDR winglets on the rear corners have been also revised for better diffuser performance.
FP1 started in clear conditions, with ambient temperatures of 32 degrees Celsius, while track temperatures were in the region of 38 degrees Celsius.
No time to waste, all drivers lined up on at the pit exit to try to make the most out of the only practice session this weekend to get ready for qualifying later today.
Liam Lawson was back on the sidelines, watching the proceedings from the AlphaTauri garage, after impressing when he deputized for Ricciardo.
Hamilton had a brief off moment at Turn 1 while on a long run with high fuel load. No harm done, and by the way his times were competitive.
With 16 minutes remaining, the teams started switching to the Soft tyres for some qualifying simulations ahead of the read deal later today.
At Aston Martin, Fernando Alonso was back on track while Stroll was out of the car, as the team continued work on it. No more running for the Canadian. The last thing he needed was to go into qualifying unprepared.