US Grand Prix: Max Verstappen tops FP1 as more problems befall Lance Stroll

Henry Valantine
US Grand Prix FP1 starts in Austin.

The drivers queue up for the one and only practice session at the US Grand Prix in Austin.

Max Verstappen topped FP1 for the US Grand Prix in Austin, in a closely-fought practice session at the Circuit of The Americas.

Charles Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top five in the only practice session before qualifying on Friday, with the sprint format returning and reducing the amount of practice down from three hours to one.

Lance Stroll spent most of the session in the garage after a front-left brake issue on his car limited his running to only five laps, leaving the Aston Martin driver with an uphill battle in qualifying later on Friday.

Max Verstappen tops only practice session in Austin as Daniel Ricciardo returns

FP1 in Austin saw the return of Daniel Ricciardo, who was straight out of the pit lane in his AlphaTauri after a five-race absence, recovering from a broken metacarpal in his hand to retake his place in the cockpit.

With only one hour of practice to refine car setup before qualifying later on Friday, it was unsurprising that the Circuit of The Americas was a hive of activity under the sun in Texas.

Among the early sighters saw most of the drivers lapping in the 1:38 to 1:39 range, but Verstappen quickly set the pace on a 1:37.687, almost a full second quicker than Lewis Hamilton in second in the first 10 minutes, with the re-crowned World Champion showing his confidence from the off at COTA.

There was a hairy moment for Carlos Sainz coming through the Esses of Turns 3-6, having to back off and sounding audibly shaken over team radio as he wondered if former team-mate Lando Norris saw him approaching rapidly in his mirrors.

A big improvement from Hamilton put him within half a tenth of Verstappen 15 minutes in, before moving ahead on hard tyres, as medium tyres began to get bolted on other cars as the drivers looked to get through as much of a practice programme as they could in the limited time they had.

Given the cars go into parc fermé conditions once qualifying starts, hence locking their setup for the weekend, this hour proved critical for the drivers’ US Grand Prix chances.

Lance Stroll was forced into the pits with a brake issue, being told by his team to not use his brakes until he absolutely had to in pulling into his pit box, with Fernando Alonso soon told to do the same as Aston Martin investigated a problem on both their cars.

The COTA bumps appeared heavily pronounced with the Formula 1 cars driving around, Sainz reporting his Ferrari “jumping around” on the straights and many others seeing their cars hopping over undulations in the track surface in multiple braking zones. recommends

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The drivers were also visibly keeping well to the right out of the fast right-hander of Turn 18 where they would normally drift to the left for maximum speed, in the name of comfort.

In finding the limits, Oscar Piastri found the grass on the exit of Turn 9 and did well to hold onto his McLaren, kicking up dust behind him after suffering a snap of oversteer on the exit, likely causing floor damage in the process of upsetting the balance of the car as he clipped the inside kerb.

While Alonso was able to get back out in his Aston Martin after around 20 minutes in the garage, Stroll climbed out of his car and took off his helmet with a healthy chunk of the session still to go, indicating that all was not well on his car as he ended his session after only five laps – far from ideal with qualifying his next time in the car, and the Aston Martin crew needing to change parts on the front-left corner on his AMR23.

Switching to mediums himself with 20 minutes to go, Norris went quickest ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen, as the leaderboard started to shuffle again as drivers improved on their quickest efforts as FP1 went on.

Alonso and Sainz both moved their way into the top five, though others may have kept their cars closer to their chests with qualifying around the corner.

A move onto soft tyres saw Alex Albon shoot to the top himself, seven tenths clear of Norris on a 1:36.535 as a sign of the tyre delta on show between the compounds as some attempted a qualifying simulation towards the end of the session.

Verstappen was one, moving onto softs and moving onto a 1:35.912, six further tenths clear of Albon to reclaim top spot once again. Nico Hulkenberg put himself third, though he appeared to go beyond track limits at both Turns 19 and 20, the latter renamed in honour of Mario Andretti.

Leclerc and Perez clocked times close to Verstappen’s benchmark to put themselves into the top three in the final five minutes, but Hamilton set purple sectors in both sectors one and two, before losing some time in sector three to go third himself.

The McLaren and Aston Martin pair did not use soft tyres at all, meaning their lowly placings are unlikely to be reflective of where they could end up in qualifying.

Both Haas drivers, meanwhile, appeared happy with their hugely-upgraded package, with both Magnussen and Hulkenberg ranking within the top 10 come session’s end.

US Grand Prix 2023: FP1 results

1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull 1:35.912
2 Charles LECLERC Ferrari +0.156
3 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes +0.281
4 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull +0.300
5 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas +0.560
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes +0.562
7 Alexander ALBON Williams +0.580
8 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari +0.621
9 Nico HULKENBERG Haas +0.790
10 Pierre GASLY Alpine +0.793
11 Logan SARGEANT Williams +1.075
12 Esteban OCON Alpine +1.154
13 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri +1.192
14 Daniel RICCIARDO AlphaTauri +1.240
15 Lando NORRIS McLaren +1.344
16 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo +1.506
17 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo +1.605
18 Fernando ALONSO Aston Martin +1.928
19 Oscar PIASTRI McLaren +2.508
20 Lance STROLL Aston Martin +4.028

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