Red Bull’s Max Verstappen led the field in the US Grand Prix’s chilly opening practice session in Austin, the Dutchman leading Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by 0.169s while teammate Alex Albon was third.
Toor Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five from which the Mercedes drivers were noticeably absent as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas appeared to spend much time in FP1 sampling Pirelli’s 2020 compounds.
2019 US Grand Prix Free Practice 1 – Results
Teams were greeted with clear blue skies at the Circuit of the Americas, but temperatures were a cool 9 degrees Celsius, making FP1 colder than pre-season testing in Barcelona in February.
Lewis Hamilton hit the track with an aero rake fitted behind his Mercedes’ rear tyres, an installation destined to gather data on Pirelli’s 2020 tyres that teams were given an opportunity to test today.
But the championship leader radioed in almost immediately to complain about the track’s surface.
“These bumps are insane out here – I don’t know if this track is safe,” were Hamilton’s first words. as early footage indeed showed cars bouncing and sparking around COTA .
Bottas put the first fastest time on the board but the Finn was overhauled by Verstappen, with the Dutchman himself ceding the top spot to Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.
The Dane’s position at the top lasted a couple of minutes as teammate Romain Grosjean took over, only for Red Bull’s Alex Albon to put everyone in their place with a 1m35.743s.
However, Albon’s previous best time was deleted by the stewards for exceeding track limits at Turn 19, an infringement drivers will likely be mindful of this weekend, especially as Verstappen was also stripped of his best time.
Williams reserve Nicholas Latifi, running in his fifth FP1 session of the year in place of George Russell, was seen pulling off the track at Turn 3, the victim by the ominous sound of it of a gearbox issue. The Canadian was able to limp his way back to the pitlane however.