What the teams said - Friday in the United States
It was a mixed day for Mercedes at a track they normally excel on. They spent most of FP1 concentrating on learning about the Pirelli 2020 tyres and, as such, only bolted on the soft rubber at the end of the session. Bottas made a mistake on his run and thus didn't set a representative time, while Hamilton had his fastest lap time deleted for exceeding track limits. Onto FP2 and it was more like it from the Silver Arrows, Hamilton finishing top although he did profit from a tow on his lap, and Bottas a solid fifth. With little to choose between the three top teams though, there is work to be done overnight.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:35.439, P8; FP2: 1:33.232, P1
"It was pretty cold out there on the track today, but at least the sun came out. The first session was interesting as we tried the 2020 tyres. FP2 was more of a normal session and it actually went quite smoothly. The track is very bumpy this year - bumps can add character to a circuit, so I'm not a fan of completely smooth circuits, but the bumps here are just massive.
"The problem for the drivers is that we don't have really much suspension, it doesn't really move very much, so it feel like sitting straight on the floor and your spine takes a lot of compression. The bumps felt pretty bad in FP1, but we made some changes to make it feel a little bit better for the afternoon session. I'm looking forward to the weekend - I love this track in general and the car felt fairly decent today. However, we've still got a lot of work to do, so we will dig through the data tonight and hopefully we can be strong tomorrow."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:36.159, P17; FP2: 1:34.045, P5
"This morning was all about development work for next year, so the lap times didn't really matter. We were focusing on gathering data on the new tyres which was quite interesting and just went through our programme without worrying too much about lap times. It was very cold this morning and while it still gets pretty warm in the car and you can break a sweat, the cold track temps make it very tricky to warm up the tyres.
"The track was very bumpy in certain areas, especially through Turns 5 and 6 - which is a high-speed section, so if the rear end of the car is not stable enough because of the bumps it can be tough. Braking into Turn 1 on a bumpy track is also not easy as you have to modulate the braking effort very precisely. It looks pretty close between the teams at the top, but I personally struggled a bit in FP2. I lost some time on the straights and the car didn't feel quite right, so that's something we will have to look at tonight."
James Allison, Technical Director
"It was a very full day with both cars having two extra sets of tyres to take a look at next year's tyre construction, which filled the day up much fuller than normal. The whole of FP1 was dominated by us trying to get a good feel for what the differences were between the prototype 2020 tyres and our known 2019 baseline, which we hope we got some good data from but we will have to pick that apart over the coming days.
"We returned to our normal work in the afternoon in FP2 and were quite encouraged by the pace of the car. Lewis in particular had a strong afternoon on low and high fuel and on a range of compounds. Valtteri was a little bit less fortunate than Lewis and didn't get the nice favourable tow that Lewis did on his fast lap, but he looked swift enough on the long runs. So we're looking forward to tomorrow and hoping that we can reproduce the single lap pace in qualifying."
Leclerc had a few issues throughout the day – a throttle problem confining him to the pits early on in FP1, before shifting issues curbed his lap time in FP2. When his car behaved he looked quick, pushing Hamilton all the way in the afternoon, and comfortably beating his team mate to boot. As for Vettel, he spun in FP2 on worn tyres but managed to keep out of the barriers.
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:34.226, P2; FP2: 1:33.890, P4
It is always good fun here in Austin. The track is not in the best shape because of its bumps. But it is what it is and that makes it a bit special and more tricky for us. But I don't think they can do anything to fix it now.
The car was good to start with, which is positive, but then we tried some things that did not seem to work so well. But we understand what we need to do so, hopefully for tomorrow we can improve in terms of our one lap pace. But I think that in race trim we have a bit more to do. We know our strengths and weaknesses and in quali trim, we can mask the weaknesses a bit, whereas that is harder for us to do in race configuration. All the same, I’m quite confident we can improve the car. We will focus on that and see what we can achieve.
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:35.380, P7; FP2: 1:33.533, P2
Overall, I think it was a positive day. Despite the setback I had in FP1, where my fastest lap was deleted and I had an issue with the throttle, the car felt good, especially in the qualifying runs. The track was bumpy, something that is a bit unusual in Formula 1, but we will adapt to it over the weekend. We still have some work to do to improve our race pace and our competitors have turned out to be quite strong in that department today, so we will see where we stand tomorrow and take it from there.
Verstappen picked up where he left off in Mexico – looking like matching the might of Mercedes and Ferrari for one-lap pace. He finished on top of the pile in FP1, albeit setting his time later in the session when the track had rubbered in, and was a credible third in FP2. Albon was exploring track limits slightly more than his team mate, having a number of lap times deleted as a result. If he can rein it in tomorrow, he stands every chance of being in the thick of the action come qualifying.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.057, P1; FP2: 1:33.547, P3
“Overall it’s been a positive day and the pace of the car on the short runs seems pretty good. Lewis had a tow down the back straight on his fastest lap so I think the time isn’t really representative and the gap is probably a bit smaller than it looks. We were a little bit off on the long runs and I’m not entirely happy yet but that’s something we can look at tonight. The track seems to be getting bumpier every year but luckily the bumps aren’t really in braking areas but it’s something that probably needs looking at before next year. I don’t mind bumps on a street circuit but some of these are quite severe and more like a jump so the wheels actually come off the ground. This track is also very aggressive on tyres so if we can keep them under control then it could be pretty good.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:34.316, P3; FP2: 1:34.434, P6
“I’m enjoying my first time around this track and it’s been really good fun so far. It’s quite technical and there’s a lot of track to use so you need to know where to put your car and which lines to take. There’s a lot of bumps out there but I think they look worse on TV than how they feel out on track, but our car is pretty good over them anyway. The cars do move around a bit over the bumps so it’s just about knowing how much you can get away with. The first session was pretty good and then the second one was ok but I know which direction I want to go in. My best time got deleted for track limits. My other lap was ok but I made a few mistakes so there’s room for improvement on my side in terms of driving and also getting the most out of the tyres. I think it’s mainly sector one and the low speed I need to focus on but after your first day at a new track, having things to work on is nothing unusual.”
A diverse day for the two Toro Rosso drivers. The positive was the form of Gasly, who looked quick in both sessions despite complaining about the handling of his STR14. Kvyat too looked like he might be a top-10 contender, but blotted his copybook with a spin in each session. It seems in the cooler conditions, keeping heat in the harder compound tyres will be crucial.
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:35.661, P11; FP2: 1:34.975, P12
“It was a normal Friday where we completed our programme and managed to do the laps we wanted. There’s a couple of corners where I can improve and then things should be fine.”
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:35.008, P4; FP2: 1:34.509, P7
“We had a very good day of practice finishing P4 and P7 in the two sessions. I have a really good feeling with the car and I’m happy with the setup direction we took between FP1 and FP2. We managed to get the car where I wanted it to be so I’m satisfied with that. Tomorrow will be slightly different conditions, so we need to make sure we can achieve similar performance by anticipating all of these changes to get the car in a similar position for the next two days. I really enjoy driving on this track as it’s quite particular; it has fast, high-speed corners which is what I like in a circuit.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“The very cold temperatures were a bit of a shock for all of us coming from Mexico. Both free practice sessions have been very productive, the drivers and engineers were able to complete their programmes and find a reasonable balance in these conditions. The track felt very bumpy this year and we had to adapt our setup from our initial expectations.
“In terms of our run plans, while Daniil tested some new aero parts during FP1, Pierre was more focused on getting his balance right and completed the morning with some sustainable laps on high fuel. Both cars tested the new prototype tyre, which will be the 2020 Pirelli specification.
“As for FP2, both cars started on the 2020 prototype tyre again before going into a more conventional run plan. The drivers were able to close good laps on the soft tyre, confirming the good performance shown in the morning. The long runs were more difficult in terms of consistency and Daniil had to stop for a tyre change after spinning in T19, where he flat-spotted his tyres. Our race pace looks okay but we need to analyse all the data to see where we rank.
“Once again, the midfield looks very tight and we will need to optimise everything tomorrow to maintain this competitiveness. We have gathered good data today for the engineers to analyse. The target is clear: we will do our best to qualify as high up the grid as possible and Q3 should be achievable for both cars.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Early this morning, the air temperature was below zero, just like a day of winter testing. This made life tough for the guys working in the garage. However, from a PU point of view, adjusting the settings to achieve the optimal running temperature is actually easier in cold conditions than in hot ones. Other than that, we went through our usual Friday programme, which proceeded in a straightforward manner for all four cars. Warmer conditions are forecast for tomorrow, therefore we will change our PU and cooling settings to be prepared for that.”
Sainz sat out a chunk of first practice due to a floor change, and once out on track, immediately spun much to his team's horror. Fortunately, it only cost him a set of tyres and he was able to finish the session, and repaid the team by looking quick in FP2. As for Norris, he had an issue with his headrest coming loose in the morning, and couldn't quite extract the same pace as his team mate today.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:35.723, P12; FP2: 1:34.667, P8
“It’s been a bit of a different Friday, having next season’s tyre compounds available. Unfortunately, my first impression of these tyres wasn’t very positive. I felt we were probably struggling a bit more this weekend to find the right balance in the car.
“It took us a few more runs to find a better compromise, but by the end of the day, we more or less managed to find a decent baseline. However, this weekend looks extremely tight and I expect a tense fight to get into the top 10. It looks challenging but we’ll make sure we work hard to maximise our options.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:36.263, P18; FP2: 1:35.025, P14
“A tricky day with all the bumps which are worse than last year, making it easy to snatch a front wheel and have a small lock-up. But after today, we have a direction to push in for tomorrow.
“We’re there or thereabouts on pace, but it’s very close. So, it’s going to be more about putting the lap together and seeing how we get on, but we’ve got a bit of work to do.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director
“Today was busy. In addition to the normal programme to work on car set-up and tyres, we had experimental 2020 tyres to evaluate and also some specific tests we wanted to perform in preparation for next year. Overall, the sessions went as planned with no delays and no problems, and we’re very happy with our work today.
“Based on Friday running, it looks like being another weekend in which the midfield is very compact. Our aim is to get into Q3 tomorrow and score points on Sunday. To do that we’ll have to extract the absolute maximum from the car.”
It was an odd day for Racing Point – on one hand they looked quick on the soft tyre, but chose to set their lap times earlier than their rivals and thus didn't really show their full hand. Stroll looked the pick of the two, but he did nearly lose his front wing in the closing moments of second practice, as he diced with Sainz at the apex of Turn 15 and was fortunate to emerge unscathed.
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:35.971, P14; FP2: 1:35.109, P15
“The track conditions today were extremely poor and there were quite a few people having problems with the bumps. I struggled with the balance of the car so I need to try and improve that for tomorrow. Lance was a lot stronger - not just over one lap, but also in the long runs - so hopefully I can pick it up tomorrow and be in contention for Q3. It’s most important to improve my race pace because that’s where the points are awarded.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:35.586, P9; FP2: 1:34.744, P9
“It was a very solid day and I got into a rhythm early on. The balance of the car was good on both the short and long runs, so we will see what tomorrow brings. It’s a track where you can get quite creative: it’s very wide so there are multiple lines you can take, particularly in the middle sector. A corner like Turn 15 allows you to dive in early or take a wider line on entry. It depends on the car and of course the driver’s preference, and I think it makes it quite exciting because of that.
“It’s generally quite a bumpy track and there are two or three big bumps that are really upsetting the car, but it’s something we all have to deal with. It’s not good for the engine either with big spikes in revs. It’s almost like there are speed bumps out there! I don’t think there is a quick fix solution this year, but hopefully they will improve things for next year. It was good to try out the new spec-tyres but it’s too early to make any conclusions and we need to get some more data on them.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Conditions were especially chilly this morning, but improved for the afternoon with track temperatures getting up to around 28 degrees – an increase of 10 degrees compared with the start of the opening session. Getting the tyres warmed up this morning was the first challenge, as was dealing with the bumps on tarmac that is beginning to show its age. Performance-wise, we stuck to our programmes as planned and didn’t have any significant dramas during the day. Lance has been more comfortable with the car and Sergio has yet to find the sweet spot. We will work hard tonight to try and unlock some more performance.”
Haas are at their home race, and in need of a good result after the disappointment of Mexico. FP1 was just what the doctor ordered, with both cars solidly in the top 10. Roll on FP2 and it wasn't such a pretty picture, with Grosjean losing control through the esses and crashing into the barriers, bringing out the red flags and ending his session prematurely. He also damaged one of the team's new upgraded front wings to boot. Magnussen was left to do the bulk of the data gathering for the team as a result.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:35.356, P6; FP2: 1:35.789, P18
“FP1 felt good. The car felt like it had a lot of grip, maybe that’s because I drove the NASCAR yesterday and then jumped back in a Formula One car and thought, oh okay, I’ve got some grip now. It was a good session, I was happy with that. We made some changes for FP2 and with hindsight they were maybe a little less good. It’s tough out there, there are a lot of bumps, but it’s pretty cool also. We’ll take the positives from FP1. We obviously haven’t had the chance to do a race sim, but we’ll take whatever Kevin (Magnussen) has done and just apply it to our car.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:35.659, P10; FP2: 1:35.442, P17
“FP1 was decent. We knew we had a big program of test stuff in FP2, so we tried to go straight into FP1 – we didn’t do an install lap, we didn’t do a turnaround, we just got straight into running. We wanted to get some car balance info from FP1. Then in FP2 we did all this aero testing, it was to get correlation, and obviously to try and understand a little more about the aero. So, we’re not concerned about the times, we saw how FP1 went, we didn’t go low fuel and stuff like that. That’s more representative of our pace, we’re probably just outside the Top 10. It would be nice to find more, and actually be in the Top 10, it’s very tight so we’ll just have to try and nail it tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was a very busy day today. FP1 went to plan, everything seemed to be fine. Then in FP2 we had planned a lot of testing, especially with Kevin (Magnussen). We achieved all our results there, even if the times maybe don’t look good, we learned a lot. We now have a lot of data to look through. Unfortunately, Romain (Grosjean) had a crash on his second fast lap, so he couldn’t do more driving. We’ll have the car fixed for tomorrow. We’ll be back on track and we’ll see what we can do.”
It was a reversal of fortune for the Renault drivers after Mexico, with Ricciardo immediately looking the happier with the R.S. 19 and his team mate struggling by comparison. Hulkenberg wasn't helped by a hydraulics issue that forced him back into the pits in FP1. If the Australian's pace in first practice is genuine, Renault should be in with a shout of 'best of the rest' but the midfield is looking incredibly tight once again.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:36.124, P16; FP2: 1:34.988, P13
“Our long runs certainly felt good, however, on low fuel, it was difficult to get in a rhythm. Hopefully we can find a balance there but, overall, the baseline isn’t too bad. The midfield looks quick and tight again, so it’ll be about extracting everything and being at the top end of that. The track is pretty bumpy, but that seems to happen year on year here. It gives it some character and makes it interesting in places. It’s part of the challenge in Austin and we have to cope with it.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:35.263, P5; FP2: 1:34.924, P11
“The morning session was pretty smooth but, in the afternoon, it seemed like others found a bit of pace. We’re not far off and I’m sure we can find a bit more. We’ll go through it all to find out which areas we can improve, but I think it’ll be small things. It’s good to be back driving here; it’s a great track, although it’s very cold! Clearly, people were talking about the bumps today but it is what it is. I prefer it like this, rather than it being completely smooth; it all adds to the enjoyment factor and the challenge.”
Marcin Budkowski, Executive Director
“Free Practice 1 was a bit tricky with the very low track temperatures, which weren’t quite representative of what we’re likely to see for the remainder of the weekend. We still had a productive morning evaluating the 2020 prototype tyres, which we ran again in the afternoon. We couldn’t find the perfect car balance in Free Practice 2 with the changing wind direction and both drivers didn’t put a clean lap together on their low fuel runs, so there are a few tenths in hand on both sides of the garage. Overall, it was a pretty decent day, especially as our pace looked strong on the long runs. As usual, it’s a very competitive midfield and we will need to get everything right to reach Q3 tomorrow.”
Giovinazzi was one of a number of drivers to fall foul of the tricky conditions, spinning in second practice across the grass in Turns 8 and 9. He was able to continue fortunately, and looked the pick of the team mates. Alfa rarely show their true hand on Fridays, preferring to concentrate on race pace, so it will be interesting to see if they can move up through the midfield tomorrow.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:35.854, P13; FP2: 1:35.387, P16
It wasn’t a bad start for our weekend. The cold wasn’t as bad as it had been in the last few days and in the end it is the same for everyone. We have a better feeling overall after the first two sessions. True, the laptime is not where we want it to be yet, but the real test to see where we are is tomorrow.
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:36.037, P15; FP2: 1:34.839, P10
We finish the day with the tenth time and that’s not too bad. Our laps on soft tyres were ok and that gives me confidence we can be competitive. It was the first time for me here, so I took a few laps to understand the track: the surface is very bumpy and that adds a challenge, but I got in a good groove quickly. We still have some work to do tonight to make sure we have the car we need for qualifying, but we can be happy with the work we have done today. I am looking forward to tomorrow.
Latifi took Russell's seat in FP1 but had a session to forget, managing just the seven laps before gearbox issues forced him back into the pits for the remainder of the session. Williams at least managed to fix the issue ahead of FP2, so Russell managed a full programme in the afternoon. Other than that, Williams look off the pace of their rivals, but hopefully picked up some valuable data on the 2020 tyre.
Robert Kubica - FP1: 1:37.948, P19; FP2: 1:37.283, P20
"The conditions were quite extreme; the bumps are more like drops in the elevation rather than big impacts into the chassis. We focused a lot on next year’s Pirelli tyre constructions evaluating drivability and aero impacts. It was my first time at COTA and driving a Formula One car here is a great feeling. It’s one of the best new generation tracks on the Grand Prix calendar."
George Russell - FP2: 1:36.749, P19
"I really enjoyed driving this circuit, it has a nice flow to it and felt very fast, although our pace was as the team predicted. Track conditions were bumpy but didn’t compromise the lap too much. It wasn’t ideal, but it added more character to the circuit and I’m looking forward to getting back out there over the weekend. On a side note, good luck to the England players in the Rugby World Cup final."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:41.112, P20
"The conditions were tricky out there today, it was cool and very bumpy, so I wasn’t taking any risks. Unfortunately, I only had two push laps because of a gearbox issue. It is an amazing track to drive, even with the little laps that I did. All in all, it was very enjoyable."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"With additional 2020 tyres available, and with Nicholas in the car again, we had a very busy programme planned for both of today’s sessions. Unfortunately, a gearbox issue early in FP1 heavily curtailed Nicholas’s running, and cost us several important tests. It was also a shame for him as he was looking forward to a busy session. In contrast, Robert enjoyed a trouble-free session and completed all the planned running, gaining us some valuable data both on the 2020 tyres and the setup of the car for this weekend. Throughout FP1 the track temperature remained very cold but, nonetheless, the tyres behaved quite well and we gained some useful data ahead of February’s winter testing.
"Due to another impressive display from the mechanics, by this afternoon’s session George’s car had been repaired and both drivers enjoyed a trouble-free session in much warmer conditions. Having lost some of the planned experiments in FP1, and with George needing to understand the nature and bumps of the Texas circuit, we opted to revise the FP2 programme a little. Both drivers did a good job to capture everything we were after and, as a result, we have gained significant additional data on the tyres and the car.
"We now concentrate our efforts on maximising the result for both drivers this weekend. We are expecting some changes to the weather tomorrow, which will impact the cars’ behaviour and we have also gathered some good data to allow us to reoptimize the cars for the circuit’s condition. With later sessions tomorrow, we look forward to some representative running in FP3, which will allow us to finalise our preparation for qualifying."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"The very low temperatures seen so far this week have come as quite a shock to many people, and of course they have an effect on tyre performance. It's in some ways a pity as we had hoped to give the drivers their first taste of the 2020 tyres in more representative weather, but obviously there's not much that we can do about it. On the positive side, there were only a few cases of light graining seen even in these extreme conditions – on the 2020 tyres and the current tyres – and the teams were still able to take away some useful information, on both new and used 2020 tyres, sometimes by doing back to back comparisons with the existing product. The relevance of this data is obviously compromised by the fact that it's a 2020 tyre on a 2019 car, which hasn't been optimised for this specification of tyre, but at least it allows the teams to gather some information in view of the final test of the year at Abu Dhabi. Apart from that, today consisted in carrying out the usual preparation work for qualifying and the race with different fuel loads, and in particular adapting the cars to these cold conditions. We experienced a very high degree of track evolution throughout the day that clearly influenced the lap times, but overall I'm actually quite surprised by how well the cars and tyres performed today in conditions that they really weren't designed for."