Hamilton wary of Red Bull and Ferrari threat in the US
Lewis Hamilton would dearly love to take a sixth win at the Circuit of The Americas and, with it, a sixth world title. But while the title side of things looks to be almost a formality this weekend – with Hamilton needing to finish eighth or higher in Sunday’s race – the victory might be a tougher ask, according to the Mercedes driver, with both Ferrari and Red Bull showing strong pace across Friday’s sessions.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended Free Practice 1 in Austin at the top of the times, as Hamilton could only manage eighth. Hamilton hit back in FP2, heading the time sheets by a seemingly comfortable 0.301s from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Verstappen just a further 0.014s behind.
But with Hamilton having received a handsome tow on his FP2 push lap from the Williams of Robert Kubica, the Briton wasn’t banking on his 88th pole position, nor his 84th win, just yet.
I love this track – it’s generally suited me in the past
“Naturally it’s those two teams that we keep an eye on,” said Hamilton, when asked if he was worried about the threat from Red Bull and Ferrari. “Red Bull, I think, was looking quite good earlier, and Ferrari is now looking quite strong… [although] I’ve not looked at the data.
“I’m excited though – I love this track in general,” added Hamilton, whose won five out of the seven Grands Prix held at COTA since 2012. “It’s a track that’s generally suited me in the past, and the car is feeling fairly decent here today. We’ve got some work to do still. There are some areas we can improve on, but yeah.”
While Hamilton was enjoying life in FP2, his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas was less happy, the Finn reportedly satisfied with his laps in the Mercedes W10 but without the lap time to show for it, as he ended up a full 0.813s off Hamilton – and intent on an investigation on Friday evening into the cause of the pace deficit.
“I did struggle a bit in Practice 2,” said Bottas. “I just didn’t feel like everything was right. I was losing big chunks of lap time so we need to investigate that.
“It was all about development work for next year,” Bottas added, when asked why he’d finished a distant P17 in Friday’s first free practice session. “It doesn’t really matter about the times in FP1, we were focusing on gathering some good info on the new tyres, which was quite interesting and just really focusing on our things rather than lap times.”