Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was fastest in the first practice session ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel for the United States Grand Prix. The Dutchman set his fastest lap on the 2019 soft tyres, the session, however, was not reprehensive as the drivers were using both this year’s tyres as well as prototypes for 2020.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second splitting the Red Bull’s, he was a tenth and a half off the pace. Alex Albon was third fastest, Red Bull appeared to have the pace during the morning, he went fastest midway through the session before the track improved.
Verstappen’s time came when he switched to the current compounds to put himself a tenth ahead of teammate Albon. Pierre Gasly put in a good lap going fourth fastest a second faster. Neither Mercedes or Charles Leclerc managed a good lap on the current tyres.
The Red Bull’s looked in control through the Maggots-Becketts section of the trace where Mercedes appeared to struggle. However, that was the case last week in Mexico City, where they won.
That allowed Pierre Gasly, Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean to go ahead of the second Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. Hamilton, who has regular race engineer Peter Bonnington back alongside him at Austin, ended up a few hundredths shy of Leclerc.
Hamilton put in a late lap on the soft tyres to move from eighteenth to eighth late in the session. The Englishman will wrap up his sixth world title this weekend if he finishes ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Finn was only seventeenth doing a lengthy run on development tyres.
The campion-elect completed twenty-seven laps on prototype tyres, which left him only ahead of the Williams until the closing stages. In his five laps on fresh softs, Hamilton’s best effort put him fourth, nine-tenths off Verstappen, but it was deleted for exceeding track limits. He eventually finished below a handful of midfield runners.
Drivers appeared to struggle with the circuit, reports of bumps around the track and a jump at Turn Nine, where there has been a mix of resurfacing and other parts being left alone and deteriorating.
Television replays even showed small parts being thrown off by at least one Haas over the bumps.
The midfield group once again proved as close as ever, Toro Rosso, Renault and Haas will be happy with their early work, with all three teams finishing with one car in the top six.
Lance Stroll also managing to mix it up putting his Racing Point ninth, a second and a half off the pace. Haas’s Kevin Magnussen was tenth, just two thousandths ahead of Daniil Kvyat.
Nicholas Latifi stopped briefly on-track and only completed seven laps after returning to the garage.