COTA, FP1: Hamilton quickest in wet opening session

At the Circuit of the Americas


By Olivier Ferret

19 October 2018 - 18:32
COTA, FP1: Hamilton quickest in wet (...)

On a United States Grand Prix weekend on which he can seal his fifth Formula 1 world championship title, Lewis Hamilton began his preparations in style, dominating a wet opening practice session at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas to finish 1.3 seconds clear of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Behind the Mercedes pair, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were the Silver Arrows’ closest challengers, while Hamilton’s only real title rival, Sebastian Vettel ended the session in fifth place, almost two seconds off the championship leader’s pace.

Heavy rain in the morning led to a cautious start to the session, with most drivers restricting themselves to reconnaissance laps to test the conditions and thus an absence of lap times in the opening third of the session.

Track conditions eventually improved to the point that intermediate tyres became an option and in those circumstances Red Bull initially led the way, with Ricciardo leading Verstappen with a lap of 1:50.642s.

Ricciardo improved on that but then Mercedes driver Bottas took to the track and he swiftly took over at the top of the timesheet when he posted a time of 1:48.806.

Soon after the action ground to a halt when Sauber’s Charles Leclerc brought out the red flag.

The Monegasque driver went off track at Turn 9 but in rejoining from the gravel trap he spread inadvertently spread a large number of stones on the track, and with the debris requiring removal the session was stopped for 10 minutes.

When the green lights were once again shown, Hamilton vaulted to the top of the timesheet with his eventual session-best lap of 1:47.502. That put him 1.3s clear of Bottas and Verstappen and 1.8s ahead of fourth-placed Ricciardo.

Ferrari, meanwhile, appeared to target long runs, with both Vettel and team-mate Kimi Räikkönen posting more than double the amount of laps turned by the Mercedes and Red Bull driver. As such neither Ferrari driver made any real impact at the top of the timesheet. Vettel finished with a best lap of 1:49.489 that put him just over four tenths of a second clear of Räikkönen.

Best of the rest status in the opening session was claimed by Renault’s Carlos Sainz, with Haas’s Romain Grosjean in eighth place ahead of the Saubers of Leclerc, who recovered from his early spin, and Marcus Ericsson.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso ended the session in 11th place, just under two tenths of a second clear of his 2019 replacement, Lando Norris. Both drivers were more than 3.5s off the pace.

01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:47.502 6
02 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG 1:48.806 7
03 Max Verstappen Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:48.847 9
04 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:49.326 9
05 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:49.489 18
06 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:49.928 20
07 Carlos Sainz Renault F1 1:50.665 8
08 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:50.821 10
09 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:50.961 14
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:51.016 14
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:51.036 9
12 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 1:51.232 9
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 1:51.234 19
14 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:51.459 18
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:51.589 14
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:51.614 15
17 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:51.655 17
18 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 1:51.717 7
19 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:51.896 14
20 Sean Gelael Toro Rosso Honda 1:52.625 21


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