Friday’s US Grand Prix reminded fans why America’s circuit has become such a staple of the F1 calendar, AUTO ACTION’s Reese Mouton reports…
Back to the track, practice on Friday gave the young drivers a chance to prove themselves on the track and the championship contenders to cement their dominance in the opening weekend.
Free Practice 1:
– 5 drivers dropped out as replacements for the opening practice session, allowing teams to tick one of the two mandatory young driver exams.
– Former Formula 2 driver Robert Schwartzman drove Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, current Indycar driver Alex Palou drove Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren, F2 driver Theo Purcher drove Valtteri Bottas’ Alfa Romeo, and rumored 2022 Williams F2 driver Logan Sargeant directed by Nicholas Latifi Williams.
– Antonio Giovannazzi, who replaced Kevin Magnussen, caused a red flag and did not restart the session. The Italian driver’s session did not count as a test for young driver Haas due to his previous F1 performance.
– The rookies ended up finishing in positions 16-20, all less than 3.5 seconds off the fastest pace except for Giovannac, who had a limited run.
– Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez looked strong around COTA in their Red Bulls, holding the top twice midway through FP1 on the soft tyre, but Verstappen complained about the lack of front end in the low-speed corners. The duo finished the opening session in second and fifth place respectively.
– Mercedes seemingly fell short of their championship rivals, sitting in P15 and P17 with half the session to go, before ending FP1 in P3 and P7 after W13 moved up on soft tyres. Both drivers had dangerous moments, with Lewis Hamilton crashing out of Turn 1 and George Russell complaining of bouncing due to the uneven track surface.
– As one of the few drivers on soft tyres, Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin had enough pace to set a time fast enough for P2 at one point. His teammate held the fastest sector in sector 2 2 and also sat in the top three with 10 minutes to go. Both Astons had a positive session, finishing 10th and 4th respectively.
– Fernando Alonso’s Alpine experienced a shaky moment at Andretti’s final corner, while his team-mate expressed concern about the hard hit his Alpine took on the kerb. – Carlos Sainz sat securely in P4 during the opener before finishing with the fastest FP1 time of 1:36.857.
Free Practice 2:
– FP2 was a long session, requiring an extra 30 minutes to adequately test the 2023 Pirelli prototype tires that were washed out at Suzuka.
– Both Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez will receive engine penalties for the new PUs, presumably a 5 place grid penalty.
– The start in FP2 was partly dictated by Pirelli: firstly, on 20kg of fuel, all cars must complete 3 consecutive laps without changing settings. This must be done at each warehouse, but the tires remain unmarked. In addition, long-term performance testing showed that the cars completed two 8 laps in a row.
– At the first tire tests, Ferrari took the first two positions, and Leclerc placed purple sectors on the wheel.
– Alonso was backed up by a slow Hamilton, prompting a not-so-happy radio message to his team, who questioned the 7-time world champion’s use of mirrors.
– Land Norris had a scary moment when entering the pits. The Mclaren driver narrowly avoided drifting into the wall as his former teammate Sainz likened the conditions to a “Tokyo drift”. – Turn 19 took a heavy toll, with both Norris and Hamilton making almost identical mistakes in which quick fixes limited the damage to their cars at the final curb. – Vettel’s Aston Martin, despite an impressive time in FP1, required a lot of mechanical attention in the second half of the session, ending his FP2 prematurely. Similarly, Verstappen’s car needed work midway through the session, ending his Friday race.
– Of the remaining 17 drivers testing the 2023 prototype tyres, Sainz set the fastest time of 1:38.222 ahead of Mick Schumacher and Lando Norris.
– After missing the normal race in FP1, Leclerc switched to conventional soft tires to take first place in FP2 with a time of 1:36.810, followed by Bottas and Ricciardo topping the timesheets.
Tomorrow’s qualifying session at Texas takes place on Saturday at 5pm track time (Sunday 9am ET), setting the grid for what should be 56 laps of exciting US Grand Prix racing.
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