FP1: Verstappen sets the pace at a bumpy COTA

Michelle Foster
FP1: Max Verstappen sets the pace at a bumpy COTA

FP1: Max Verstappen sets the pace at a bumpy COTA

Max Verstappen topped the timesheet in Friday’s opening practice for the United States GP as the numerous bumps at the sinking COTA made life difficult for the drivers.

Two words summed up Friday’s first practice at the Circuit of the Americas: cold, bumpy.

The track was a mere 14’C as the drivers ventured out the pits with Lewis Hamilton, the second car out, already complaining about the bumps at the exit of the pit lane.

“The bumps are insane out here, I don’t know if the track is safe,” he told his Mercedes team.

Surprisingly, though, given the number of bumps – according to reports COTA has sunk 1.5m since it was built – there were few notable incidents as a result of drivers hitting them.

Charles Leclerc, who lost track with what he thought was an engine problem that turned out to be a throttle pedal issue, was sent flying off the track at Turn 9 when he hit the bump that many of the drivers had been complaining about.

But that was about it.

Drivers, namely the Red Bull pairing, fell foul of the FIA’s stringent track limit rule. Policing Turn 19, both Alexander Albon and Max Verstappen (twice) were stripped of times for exceeding the track limits. So too were Kevin Magnussen, Daniil Kvyat and Lewis Hamilton.

That, though, didn’t hurt them too much with Albon and Verstappen spending most of the opening practice session fighting Sebastian Vettel for P1.

There was a run of hot laps in the final 30 minutes as many of the drivers swapped the prototypes for Pirelli’s soft tyres.

Vettel went P1 but Verstappen took over with a 1:34.057 with Albon lining up third fastest.

Pierre Gasly finished P4 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean.

Hamilton, who only ran the prototype tyres until the final 10 minutes when he swapped to the soft, finished down in 8th place with Valtteri Bottas P17.

Nicholas Latifi’s run in the FW42 ended early when George Russell’s Williams went into “neutral” forcing him back into the pits. Williams reported a gearbox issue.

There was drama also for Nico Hulkenberg who lost time with a hydraulic leak while a loose headrest caused a rather scary moment for Lando Norris.

1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:34.057
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.169s
3 Alex Albon Red Bull 0.259s
4 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 0.951s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1.206s
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 1.299s
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1.323s prototype
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1.382s
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1.529s mediums
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.602s
11 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.604s
12 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.666s
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.797s
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1.914s mediums
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.980s
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 2.067s
17 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 2.102s
18 Lando Norris McLaren 2.206s
19 Robert Kubica Williams 3.891s
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 7.055s

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