Lewis Hamilton ended Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix as the driver to beat on a weekend he can wrap up his sixth F1 world title.
Championship leader Hamilton topped an interrupted Free Practice session which had seen Romain Grosjean - trialling a new front wing - end up in the barriers within the opening minutes.
On a weekend in which he can clinch his sixth drivers’ world title, Hamilton posted a 1m33.232s during the qualifying simulation runs on Soft tyres to outpace Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.301s.
The Briton, who has won all but two of the seven races to be held at the Circuit of the Americas, gained heavily from picking up a tow behind Robert Kubica’s Williams along the back straight on his fastest lap.
FP1 pacesetter Max Verstappen turned in another strong lap to put his Red Bull third and just 0.014s behind Leclerc.
Behind the leading three, Sebastian Vettel didn’t manage to hook up a decent lap, as he finished 0.658s off Hamilton in fourth before capping off his session with a spin at Turn 15 in the Ferrari.
Valtteri Bottas, who can delay Hamilton’s impending coronation by a further race if he outscores his Mercedes teammate by 22 points in Austin, ended up fifth-fastest and over eight-tenths down on Hamilton’s benchmark time whilst Alexander Albon sat 1.277 seconds adrift, with the first of his flying laps being deleted for exceeding track limits.
Gasly back on form
There will have been a wry smile on the face of Pierre Gasly, as he ended up just 0.075s off the time of Albon – the driver who replaced him at Red Bull midway through this season – with the Frenchman putting in a cracking lap to go P7 for Toro Rosso, 0.158s up on the McLaren of Carlos Sainz in eighth.
Racing Point driver Lance Stroll and the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top 10.
Renault’s struggle for one-lap pace appeared to continue, with Daniel Ricciardo ending up 11th, over four-tenths off Gasly’s P7 time – while after having a hydraulic problem from FP1 fixed, Nico Hulkenberg was P13, ahead of the second McLaren of Lando Norris, who couldn’t seem to get on the pace of his team mate.
Sergio Perez struggled to match the pace demonstrated by Racing Point counterpart Stroll as he ended up 1.8s adrift in 15th, with Kimi Raikkonen over two seconds down in 16th for Alfa Romeo.
Haas woes continue
It was another tough session for the Haas duo at the team’s home race with both drivers finishing well off the pace down in 17th and 18th.
Kevin Magnussen was the faster of the two drivers as Grosjean’s afternoon running lasted just 15 minutes before he brought out the red flags when he crashed in the first sector.
The Frenchman lost control of his VF19 coming through the high-speed Turns 5 and 6 and spun off into the barriers, with the impact destroying Haas’ brand new front wing in the process.
Once again the Williams pair propped up the timesheets, with George Russell half a second clear of teammate Kubica, who was four seconds off the pace in 20th.