US Grand Prix - Free Practice: Hamilton on the pace, 0.3 quicker than Rosberg

US Grand Prix - Free Practice: Hamilton on the pace, 0.3 quicker than Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton was quickest at COTA in FP1, team-mate Nico Rosberg P2. Max Verstappen third, although gap is tyre related. Vettel hits mirror trouble as Haas hit home.

Jake Nichol

Laying down the challenge to Formula One World Championship favourite Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton kicked off the US Grand Prix weekend in the best possible fashion, out-pacing the sister Mercedes W07 Hybrid by 0.315 with a quickest time of 1:37.428, on Soft tyres.

Whilst the timing sheets suggest Mercedes dominated the session, the 1.951 gap between Hamilton and Max Verstappen in third was due to the fact that the Red Bull's lap was done on medium tyres; with both Mercedes improving on their SuperSoft times, on the yellow marked Soft compound Pirelli.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, ahead of the impressive Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas for Force India and WIlliams respectively.

Daniel Ricciardo was seventh quickest, with Sebastian Vettel coming home in eighth position, 2.560 down on Hamilton.

The two Toro Rosso's of Danill Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr rounded out the top 10.

End of season feel

As the climax to the season draws ever closer, the action represented that feel, with a number of cars not going out in the early stages, and throughout the session, in a bid to save engine and component mileage.

After the initial install laps had been completed, it was Manor's Jordan King, making his race weekend debut as a Friday driver who set the first time of the opening 90 minutes, although Raikkonen soon bettered his effort around the Circuit of the America's.

The Finn's fun at the top of the timing sheets was short lived as Rosberg lapped in a 1:40.223, as both the Mercedes burned a set of SuperSoft's early on, after a number of minutes of changing leadership, it was Hamilton was came out on top, a blistering 1:38.701, as Rosberg bit by bit nudged the gap down to a final gap of 0.337 at the conclusion of the SuperSoft tyre run, which suggests it could be a viable race tyre.

As the rest of the field were focusing on Soft and Medium tyre runs, the World Champions remained unchallenged, as Hulkenberg split the Ferrari's for fourth, and Bottas showing good pace on a Friday, something Williams haven't done too often in the past few years.

Toward half-way, a number of bits began to fall off the cars, with a VSC called for a bit of Vettel's undertray at T19, after he ran wide, which caused his right mirror to became detached, but he held on to it, bringing his Ferrari home, as Marcus Ericsson did to his Sauber , which was stuck in 1st gear.

Attention was then switched to the first long runs, as Hulkenberg, Bottas and Esteban Ocon, ditched the Halo.

After an off at T19, Sebastian Vettel's mirror tried to break free, but he wouldn't let it. (Image Credit: Formula One)
After an off at T19, Sebastian Vettel's mirror tried to break free, but he wouldn't let it. (Image Credit: Formula One)

Haas at home

For the first time in nearly 30 years there is an American team competing in the American Grand Prix, as Gene Haas's team took to the track. It was comfortable session for the team, a solid P14 and P15 for Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, who diced for position with Verstappen briefly in the final 20 minutes.

The Renault looked hard to drive in the early low-grip stages, which included a spin for Jolyon Palmer, as McLaren showed that their Suzuka blip was just that, with a good session. Felipe Nasr was a strong P12 for Sauber.

As the Soft tyres were bolted to the Mercedes, Hamilton aborted his first flyer, a mistake in the stadium complex, which left Rosberg out front, by nearly 1s on the previous benchmark set by the World Champion. On his second go however, the Brit lapped in 1:37.248 and that was how it stayed for the rest of the session, with only a brief issue for Haas, when both cars stopped in the pit-lane the only other major talking point.

United States Grand Prix - First Practice times
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.428
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.315
3. Max Verstappen Red Bull +1.951
4. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.979
5. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.284
6. Valtteri Bottas Williams +2.348
7. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +2.535
8. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +2.560
9. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.703
10. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +2.712
11. Felipe Massa Williams +2.763
12. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.859
13. Fernando Alonso McLaren +2.934
14. Romain Grosjean Haas +3.398
15. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +3.542
16. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +3.742

Alfonso Celis Jr

Friday FP1 driver

Force India +3.994
18. Jenson Button McLaren +4.235
19. Kevin Magnussen Renault +4.514

Jordan King

Friday FP1 driver

Manor +4.584
21. Jolyon Palmer Renault +4.904
22. Esteban Ocon Manor +6.446