Formula 1 World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has led title rival Sebastian Vettel to be the fastest driver in mix conditions in the first practice session of the United States Grand Prix.
The Mercedes driver posted a 1:36.335 on Pirelli’s Supersoft tyre compound; the Englishman’s fastest time was 0.593 seconds faster than the Ferrari driver in the 90-minute session. Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third-fastest.
The session started in damp conditions after an early morning rain shower, with majority of runners heading out onto the Circuit of the Americas with Intermediate tyres for the initial installation laps.
Hamilton was the early pace-setter on the treaded tyres with a 1:50.146, however that was quickly overhauled by Max Verstappen when the Dutch youngster – whom Red Bull Racing had confirmed had re-signed with the team until the end of the 2020 season – fitted a fresh set of Intermediates to go quicker. Verstappen was subsequently usurped by Williams’ Felipe Massa.
The damp conditions proved tricky, however, with Verstappen’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo losing his car on the kerbs in the high-speed esses. The Australian was able to continue after catching his wayward car.
With track conditions improving, Vettel was the first to switch to dry tyres and moved to the top of the time sheets with a 1:45.960.
The field paused in the pits while they waited for conditions to improve, with Ricciardo returning to the track and steadily lowering the benchmark time to post a 1:39.266 on the Supersoft tyres.
Verstappen swiftly demoted him, before Hamilton clocked his first effort on the dry-weather tyres with a 1:36.935 time putting him back on top. He took a further six-tenths of a second off that time to ensure he would be untroubled for the remainder of the session.
Vettel and Bottas moved into second- and third-fastest respectively with Verstappen eventually slotting into fourth place one second off Hamilton’s ultimate pace.
Stoffel Vandoorne benefited from an upgraded Honda power unit to claimed fifth-fastest in his Ultrasoft-shod McLaren. By contrast, his teammate Fernando Alonso languished at the bottom of the timesheets and was sidelined from the session while his mechanics investigated an hydraulics issue.
Massa wound up sixth-fastest in his Williams ahead of the second Ferrari of Kimi Räikkönen and the two Force Indis of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Pérez.
Carlos Sainz Jr., having his first hit-out for Renault, rounded out the top ten runners in the session. The Spaniard finished three-quarters of a second faster than teammate Nico Hūlkenberg, who will take grid penalties after his team elected to fit an upgraded power unit.
Also set to face a grid penalty this season is Formula 1 debutante Brendon Hartley, who was fourteenth fastest and a shade under three seconds off the pace. The New Zealander’s Toro Rosso is fitted with a number of new Renault power unit components this weekend.
Hartley finished 1.1 seconds quicker than Indonesian driver Sean Gelael, who was having his third FP1 hit-out of the season for the Italian team. Daniil Kvyat, who is back in the team’s driving line-up after sitting out the Japanese Grand Prix, will return to driving duties in the afternoon’s second session.
Newly-crowned Formula 2 Championship winner Charles Leclerc had his second FP1 outing for the Sauber F1 Team and finished slowest of the drivers to post a representative time, just under four-tenths of a second slower than Marcus Ericsson.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team