The drivers and teams report back on Friday practice at the Formula 1 Pirelli 2018 United States Grand Prix...
What the teams said - Practice in Austin
Mixed conditions always favour one man and Hamilton lived up to his wet-weather reputation by topping both practice sessions by a country mile. He didn’t even need a lap in FP2 to get a feel for the conditions, leading the way on his first flying effort and even having time to joke with his engineer afterwards. Bottas looked competent in first practice, if some distance behind his illustrious team mate. The Finn didn’t go out in FP2.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:47.502, P1; FP2: 1:48.716, P1
"It's not really been an eventful day - which is a shame because a lot of people came out today. The weather was miserable this morning; it looked like it was going to dry up going into FP2 but then all of a sudden the heavens opened again. In FP1 I only did a few laps because we need the tyres to last until FP3 and there's very little to learn in the rain. In FP2 I waited to the end before I went out to see if the track had changed or the tyres had dropped off a little bit for the next run from my previous laps. The car still felt good, but the track seemed a bit bumpier than in the past. The intermediate tyres provided pretty good grip for the wet conditions, but I don't think they will last very long. You can actually drive with quite a lot of standing water on the inters, so finding the cross-over between the extreme wets and the inters is going to be crucial as you can lose a lot if you get it wrong. Overall, I still enjoyed it - I love driving this track and it's great in the wet as well, so I got a little bit of excitement today."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:48.806, P2; FP2: No time set
"It was a pretty boring day, just waiting for the rain to go away. The more tyres we use today, the less tyres we have for a potentially wet qualifying session; so we'd rather run tomorrow than today given the tyre allocation that we have. But even in the limited running that I was able to do this morning the car felt really good, despite the poor conditions. It seems to be a strong car in both the wet and the dry. The set-up for tomorrow and Sunday will be tricky given that no one was able to run the dry tyres yet, but I guess that's when we will see how good our simulations are as our entire set-up will have to be based on simulations and all the hard work back at the factory, but not on on-track running. We have different tyres compared to last year, the asphalt changed as well, so there are many question marks that will make finding the right race set-up and strategy difficult. So even if we get a good qualifying, there are no guarantees for Sunday - which makes the weekend really interesting."
James Allison, Technical Director
"There really isn't a huge amount to say about today as the weather cut short any ambitions to look at the dry tyres and to prepare for the race that we hope will be dry and the qualifying that we hope will at least be dry-ish. From the limited look that both drivers had at the car in FP1 and the brief outing that Lewis did in FP2 the car seems alright. However, I don't think that doing well in today's conditions is going to have a lot to do with winning the race on Sunday."
Both Vettel and Raikkonen had moments in FP1 and looked to be struggling for grip in the drying conditions. Second practice was wetter but that didn’t seem to help the Scuderia pace-wise. Worse news was to come with Vettel being penalised for not slowing down sufficiently under red flags in FP1. He was handed a three-place grid drop for Sunday and his chances of keeping the title fight alive have hence got even slimmer...
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:49.489, P5; FP2: 1:53.912, P10
“There’s not much you can learn from a session like the one we had today and it’s been the same for everyone. We didn’t do many quality laps but it was clear that on the wet we were not quick enough. As for the three-place grid penalty, I think that the stewards today were very specific in saying that my slowing down time was 27.7 seconds; I saw the red flag, had a look around to see whether there was any car stuck in the wall between turn 9 and 10, and slowed down to comply with the rules. They found it was too long a time, but I can’t do much about that. The rules are clear and we know them, but I think a situation like this happened just this time, in these weather conditions, and on the wet you would go slower anyway.”
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:49.928, P6; FP2: 1:53.443, P9
“Today not much happened; the conditions were quite tricky, but we tried to run as much as we could. We had one set that we could basically use without penalizing ourselves, because it’s the extra set that we must give back. The remaining ones can be used for qualifying and the race, so we were limited in availability. I did not pay much attention to lap times, because towards the end of the afternoon session, after I had set my best time on the full wet tyres, the intermediates we had at that time were quite worn. Through the sessions we made some progress, all in all it was OK, but it’s not easy to have a clear picture. We had some new solutions to test but given the conditions, there was not much to learn from them. Now we’ll try to make the best of it in the sessions that follow.”
The Red Bulls looked quick in first practice, with Ricciardo and Verstappen regularly replacing each other at the top of the timing sheet. The Dutchman seemed confident to push, despite one major wobble which saw him run wide at Turn 16. In second practice Ricciardo stayed put in the garage but it was much of the same from Verstappen, who must fancy his chances if these conditions remain into tomorrow.
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:49.326, P4; FP2: No time set
“We would obviously have liked to run a bit more today but I had a puncture in my first set of intermediates this morning so we couldn’t use that set again. If we had used another set in FP2 that could have taken a set away from us tomorrow in qualifying, which is obviously more important than running this afternoon. If we had more tyres available, we would have seen more running. Fortunately, this morning we got a few laps in and understood a bit about the car in these conditions and we definitely felt an improvement from Monza. For sure the wet is exciting to drive in and it could change things up tomorrow, but if it’s dry I think we also have a pretty good car, so I don’t really mind what happens in qualifying. The race could be a bit more of a lottery if it’s the first dry running we get. I don’t know if Ferrari had a few struggles today but we looked to be ok. A podium would be good, in fact, a podium with a bit of brisket on the side and a cold beverage would be even better.”
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:48.847, P3; FP2: 1:49.798, P3
“These wet Fridays are always a bit boring. It was important to get out in order to understand our car better in these conditions, even if it was only a handful of laps. We tried a few things and collected some data but it is always hard in the rain to tell how the car responds to these changes. It felt pretty good at the end of the session so if it is wet tomorrow, or during the race we will hopefully be in good shape. I think after a day like this there are still a lot of unknowns, we just have to do our best tomorrow, whatever the weather and put ourselves in the best position for Sunday.”
Force India sprung a surprise in a wet qualifying back in Belgium – and they might fancy their chances of doing likewise here if this rain sticks around. But they do need to show more pace than they managed today, with neither driver breaking into the top 10 in either session.
Sergio Perez – FP1: 1:51.459, P14; FP2: 1:54.963, P13
“We did a few runs today so that we can be prepared if conditions remain wet tomorrow. We didn’t appear to have the best pace on the intermediate tyres, but hopefully we can improve that overnight. It was very tricky out there, but also quite good fun at the same time. Wet weather always opens up opportunities and we will try our best to make the most of them tomorrow.”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:51.655, P17; FP2: 1:55.348, P14
“It was a bit of a late call to be in the car today, but given the wet conditions, the team decided it was better for Nicholas to maximise his seat time in Abu Dhabi. We weren’t able to do a lot of laps today, but we went out to feel the conditions and to see if we could learn something. We decided to use only one set of tyres today [the intermediates] and we used them all the way through: that’s not ideal but we chose to save the other sets for qualifying. Other teams took a gamble and used more, so let’s see if this can bring us an advantage tomorrow. I don’t mind whether it’s dry or wet in qualifying. We can be competitive whatever the conditions, so let’s see what tomorrow has in store.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“As forecast, we had two wet sessions today so there wasn’t a lot of running. In the end, it was the same for everyone and we had to make the most of the conditions. We did quite a handful of laps in both sessions, trying to understand mainly the intermediate tyre. We elected to save our full allocation of wet tyres because there is still a high chance of rain tomorrow. We took the best from our inters in FP1, making our life a bit harder in FP2, but we still have a bit of work to do to ensure we get the most from those tyres tomorrow. Overall, the conditions meant we didn’t run much today, so we will need to be ready for whatever weather we get during qualifying.”
Hulkenberg doesn’t have the best of luck around this track, having retired from the last four races. He did at least manage a decent showing in FP2, whilst Sainz failed to set a time. The team have been on the slide somewhat recently, having been best of the rest for much of the season – can they turn that around this weekend?
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:51.717, P18; FP2: 1:52.208, P5
“I didn’t quite have the right balance and harmony in the morning so it was good to get a run in the afternoon to confirm we’d made changes in the right direction. It’s quite fun to drive in conditions like today, even if it can look pretty bleak on the TV. We’ve seen some extreme differences in weather here in Austin before, so it’s going to be interesting to see what the rest of the weekend serves up.”
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:50.665, P7; FP2: No time set, P16
“I was pretty happy with the car in the morning session and managed to put some decent laps together. Conditions at the end of FP2 were similar and I only did a quick out and in lap to test a couple of things and gather info. Tomorrow will be interesting; we think it’s going to be wet so it will be a good challenge for the drivers. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director
“We completed a couple of runs in FP1 and a run each in FP2 and have used both the wet and intermediate tyres today. We did manage to complete some wet setup work on intermediate tyres. Much of the track time was too wet for valid running but both drivers ended their days quite happy with their base wet setup.”
Vandoorne sat out FP1 for Norris, who put in a competent display in the wet. Come second practice and the Belgian wasted no time getting up to speed, trying both the wet and intermediate tyres. Alonso, meanwhile, spent most of FP2 messing around in the garage but came out late and delivered a composed lap to grab the fourth spot. Can he hold on to it tomorrow? Like many, his best hopes might lie with the weather staying changeable...
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:51.036, P11; FP2: 1:51.728, P4
“It was an odd day, with very wet track conditions and not much running. It always feels good here, though, the high-speed section especially is quite impressive with these cars. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll put in some more laps. We’re always missing a couple of sets of tyres on Friday and it’s a pity, especially for the people who come to watch us from the grandstands.
Stoffel Vandoorne - FP2: 1:53.354, P8
“My Friday wasn’t very busy! I missed out on FP1 as Lando was in my car, and then in FP2 because of the bad weather conditions we only managed a couple of laps. But for me it was still good to get back to grips with everything after the Formula E test. Hopefully tomorrow I can get a few more laps in. This should be one of our better circuits. We’ve got a few new bits on the car, but with the weather conditions it’s a bit difficult to prove them out. When it’s tricky then generally that offers a few more opportunities for us, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:51.232, P12
“Today was good. It’s my first time here, and second time ever in America. It’s a cool track, really enjoyable. I think it’ll be very different in the dry. It’s very bumpy and you don’t feel the bumps quite as much in the wet as you’re on different lines. It was tricky because it was quite slippery, so I think there were a lot of people making mistakes here and there. It wasn’t easy but everything I did felt pretty good. I know in myself I have a lot more time to improve and there are things for me to work on. I feel more comfortable, especially in the rain, as it’s only my second time driving in the wet. It’s difficult to adjust to all these different things – a new track, new conditions and trying new things in changing conditions. But it was a good session. When I’m not driving I’m now becoming a professional Barista, making coffee and tea for all the guys to pass a bit of time!”
At their home race, the Haas boys will be keen to impress. Grosjean continued his recent upturn in form in FP1, with Magnussen somewhat trailing again. Neither driver ran in the afternoon, opting to save tyres in the event of a wet session tomorrow. Was that a masterstroke? We will wait and see.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:50.821, P8; FP2: No time set
“It was frustrating to not get out there and run. We want to run a bit more in front of our fans here. There’s nothing we can do about the weather, but there’s a lot we can do about getting more tyres. This morning, at least, went pretty well. I was happy with the car balance, especially on the intermediates. It looks like qualifying tomorrow is going to be wet, so we saved tyres. We’ll probably go and have a feel in FP3. Let’s see tomorrow what we can go and get.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:51.614, P16; FP2: No time set
“It’s obviously not been ideal today with the weather, but that’s how it is. It’s out of our control. We tried to make the best of it with some running in FP1. We just didn’t have the tyres to run in FP2. I feel sorry for everyone that was watching. Hopefully, it will be different tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“FP1 was pretty useful. We were able to learn on the wet and the intermediate tyres, and that’s where we’ve been a little bit behind because the opportunity to test is rare. The afternoon was boring because we couldn’t go out there in case we compromise our tyres for tomorrow. We decided to stay in. At least we have the full choice of tyres for Saturday.”
Gelael deputised for Hartley in FP1, and the Kiwi ran the most number of laps in FP2 to make up time, gathering crucial data. Gasly, meanwhile, looked quick – very quick. But with both drivers set to take grid penalties for new PU parts, it might all be rather in vain.
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:51.234, P13; FP2: 1:49.728, P2
“It was a positive day today. In the morning we struggled a bit to make the intermediate tyres work properly, but then we made some changes for FP2 and they seem to work much better. This afternoon I felt very good with the car and I really enjoyed driving in the wet conditions, especially on this amazing track, which in the rain is super exciting! Even if we didn’t run much, I really liked the general feeling and the performance was there. Although not everybody went out, it’s always nice to see us so high on the time sheet. Considering the penalty we will receive, which will see us start from the back, we now have to focus on having the fastest possible car for Sunday’s race.”
Brendon Hartley - FP2: 1:52.505, P6
“I missed today’s morning session but I got some wet running in the afternoon and everything went pretty smoothly. I had the same issues as they had this morning, but the other car looked really exciting in terms of performance with the new engine and new aero package. I had the old aero package today, but if Pierre’s performance is anything to go by, it looks quite promising for the future.”
Sean Gelael – FP1: 1:52.625, P20
“Every time I do a free practice session it’s wet, and today was no exception! It’s a bit tricky because it was weather for wets at the start, then it became more dry towards the end for intermediates. We went out a bit early so I could get comfortable with the car, but as I gained more confidence I lost time with the tyres as they started to grain at the front. Other than that the rest of the session was ok, there’s room for improvement and we have good data which will help me and the team.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“It was great to welcome Sean back to the team for his FP1 duties, even if it wasn’t ideal for him as, for whatever reason, almost every FP1 he’s done with us it’s rained! We had a big test programme across the two cars; we planned to introduce a new aero package on Pierre’s car, but given the tricky conditions in the first session we elected not to run it. This meant we didn’t get to do the test items we planned, so we focussed more on understanding how to operate the car at its best in the Intermediate conditions. It was still wet heading into FP2, but we wanted to learn about the new aero package so we fitted that to Pierre’s car. Unfortunately, we couldn’t carry out the intended rake work because it’s tricky to judge an aero package in these conditions, but on face value it appears to be working well, which is really positive. We also tried to do a similar plan across the two cars to get some laps on the wet and intermediate tyre, so there’s a lot for us to go through tonight.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“As confirmed this morning, Gasly’s car was fitted with a new PU for this event and, also as planned, we will change the PU in Hartley’s car tonight. This will involve grid penalties for both drivers but it’s the best strategy from a team perspective for the last few races. The rain meant we ran a completely different programme to a normal Friday and in FP2, the car balance was a good step forward from the morning session and overall the package seems well suited to this track. We look forward to running in better weather tomorrow.”
Sirotkin was the first to bolt on inters in second practice, but the FW41 looked a tough beast to handle and he wasn’t rewarded for his bravery. He did at least stay pointing in the right direction, as did his team mate.
Sergey Sirotkin - FP1: 1.51.589, P15; FP2: 1:55.446, P15
"It wasn’t the busiest day out there, but I think we learned enough for tomorrow. Unfortunately, I think we were all tyre limited so we couldn’t really run and try too many things that we would have wanted to. I think we learned some interesting things in the morning, then in the afternoon we spotted some differences between the tyre compounds in FP2. We wanted to see the crossover between the two tyre sets as well as prepare ourselves for the many different situations that tomorrow’s qualifying session might present. From what we could do today in terms of running, we did reasonably."
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:51.896, P19; FP2: 1:54.637, P12
"Today we just did bits and pieces, getting an eye for everything and feeling the grip in various parts of the circuit. We did the usual wet running, minimal laps were completed, but it was the same case for everyone. We thought it would be beneficial to go out to learn a thing or two. It is always challenging in the wet, but I think it was playing into our hands assuming that we would struggle in the dry this weekend, although I am always optimistic so did not assume this. Unfortunately, we had just three sets of tyres which is not ideal and a shame for the fans with very little running on a day like this. We could definitely have run more if we would have had more tyres, as although it was raining quite heavily at times, it was ok to run."
Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer
"A very frustrating day unfortunately, most particularly for the fans. We have fantastic spectators in Austin who’ve come a long way to watch the running and unfortunately with the weather, and limited range of tyres, we didn’t do much running. We ran in both sessions on both types of wet tyre and did some experiments which gave us some limited information, which we hope will be useful should it be wet tomorrow for qualifying. We really hope we can have a proper session tomorrow and that we don’t end up with a postponement as we had in 2015."
Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing
“There wasn’t so much that could be done in today’s conditions, although we did see quite a lot of running in the morning using the intermediate tyre. In wet conditions, the teams receive an extra set of intermediates, bringing their total allocation for the weekend up to five sets of intermediates and three sets of full wets. These full wets could be needed tomorrow, when more rain is expected for qualifying before a dry race on Sunday. This should obviously lead to an interesting situation in the race, with the teams lacking slick tyre data. Understandably, in today’s slippery conditions the teams preferred not to take any risks with the cars, although they were able to understand more about the crossover point from wet to intermediate.”