Lewis Hamilton was fastest in the first practice session for the United States Grand Prix. The Mercedes drive dominated the session in the wet going over a second faster than his teammate Valtteri Bottas, with title rival Sebastian Vettel only fifth.
Hamilton will seal his fifth world title if he outscores Vettel by eight points this weekend, Vettel appeared to struggle compared to the Mercedes and Red Bull in the torrential rain near the state capital Austin. Max Verstappen ahead of Daniel Ricciardo on the early runs.
Hamilton then went fastest in the middle part of the session, before sitting out the final twenty minutes. The Englishman could become the second most successful driver this weekend if he seals his fifth title. he out-scores Sebastian Vettel, his nearest title rival, by at least eight points in Sunday’s race.
Vettel meanwhile, was struggling with the balance of the Ferrari. That left the German almost two seconds off Hamilton. Ferrari has brought an upgrade this weekend to try and keep the slim title hopes alive. With the conditions, it looked as if Ferrari looked to the long runs.
Vettel never troubled the top of the times as he and teammate Kimi Raikkonen conducted longer runs than their rivals, ending with seventeen and nineteen laps respectively – neither Mercedes or Red Bull got into double figures. However, Vettel was able to get ahead of Raikkonen into fifth and eventually outpaced the Finn by half a second.
The changing conditions throughout the session meant direct comparisons between drivers are of little value, but there is no doubt Hamilton looks at home on the circuit that has delivered him five victories in the last six years.
Carlos Sainz headed the best of the rest, going seventh fastest ahead off both the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc. Leclerc, however, didn’t have a clean session, he ran wide through turn ten which saw him through gravel onto the track bringing out the red flag. The Monacan ninth.
McLaren’s 2019 driver Lando Norris was back in action going twelfth fastest, that left the Bristolian two tenths off the pace and a place behind of Fernando Alonso.
Norris was faster than Pierre Gasly, Sergio Perez and Sergey Sirotkin, who all completed more laps. Gasly’s teammate, Sean Galael could only manage twentieth.
Second practice should give more answers to the true performance of the cars this weekend.