RACE DEBRIEF

    He’s set to start at the back of the grid in Austin, having taken on a fresh Honda engine for this weekend - but that didn’t stop Pierre Gasly from enjoying a positive Friday, with the Toro Rosso driver bouncing back from a ‘tricky’ morning session to finish FP2 in second behind Lewis Hamilton.

    Gasly - whose Toro Rosso was fitted with a new internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K ahead of first practice – was among those to struggle in a rain-hit FP1, getting 19 laps under his belt but only managing to go 13th fastest.

    The conditions didn’t improve for FP2, but Gasly’s car and his performance did. Though running may have been limited, with all 20 drivers confined to their garages until the second half of the 90-minute session, Gasly was able to show pace, leading the timesheet for some time before Hamilton climbed top late on.

    It was a morale-boosting performance for the Red Bull-bound star, who was delighted to finish second in a session in which 15 drivers set lap times.

    “It wasn’t super exciting, we spent a lot of time out of the car with the conditions. But in the end it was pretty productive for us compared to the others,” said Gasly.

    2018 Japanese GP
    "We made some changes for the afternoon – and the car was fantastic" - Pierre Gasly

    “This morning was a bit tricky, I wasn’t so comfortable with the car, the tyres, and it was a pretty difficult balance. But then we made some changes for the afternoon – and the car was fantastic.

    “It was good changes from the team. I felt confident and (we showed) good pace, it’s always nice to see us on top even though all the cars didn’t run. Still the feeling with car was really good. It's my first time in Austin and I really enjoyed it.”

    Despite knowing he’ll start the United States Grand Prix behind his midfield rivals, Gasly is confident that he can fight his way through the field on Sunday.

    “We saw in Suzuka it was a really positive improvement - for sure it’s not ideal we are going to start P20 and P19 at the back of the grid.

    “But I think with the new spec we can clearly fight the others a lot more than we used to before. It’s always nice when you start from the back, because you know you’re going to have an exciting race, a lot of battles.”

    Gasly will be looking to finish the season with Toro Rosso on a high, with the driver set to move to Red Bull next year. He currently sits 14th in the drivers’ standings, three points behind Haas’ Romain Grosjean in 13th.

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