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What the teams said - Friday in the United States

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes

Mercedes

It was a dream start for Mercedes in the opening session – their drivers were in the top two spots and they had the best part of a second worth of gap to their Red Bull challengers. But they didn’t have it all their own way in FP2, with Hamilton losing a lap time to track limits, whilst also having a wheel-to-wheel moment with Verstappen. But all in all, a solid first day for the team who look in the box seat heading into tomorrow – although Bottas is carrying a grid penalty for the race after taking another ICE.

READ MORE: Mercedes 'trying to get on top of engine problems' as they weigh up Hamilton PU penalty

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:34.919, P2; FP2: 1:35.310, P3

"Generally, it's been a good day but there's still work to do. The first session was really good, but I made some changes for FP2 and I wasn't as happy with the car. The pace wasn't bad, but I think we lost a bit of ground to everyone, so we need to dig into the data tonight and figure out why. The surface here feels rougher and that means it's a struggle to keep the temperature out of the tyres, so there's more degradation than we've experienced before. It's been a productive day so we have plenty of findings that we should be able to navigate well and improve for tomorrow."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:34.874, P1; FP2: 1:35.360, P4

"I think we have a good car here and even with my five-place grid penalty, we can still have a good race from wherever I end up starting. Today showed it is pretty close at the front but it's still all to play for. Because of the penalty, the main thing for me was focusing on the long-run pace and that's what we did, especially in FP2. There's still a lot of work to do with the set-up, as it wasn't easy to drive and, in some places, the track has lost quite a lot of grip, so the balance was inconsistent. But we'll look at the best options tonight and see what we can do, because I will be racing other cars and need to overtake if I want to make it to the podium and fight for the win."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"The first session was very good in terms of single lap pace; both cars were getting good grip out of the Soft tyres and the balance was in a good place. The track is pretty bumpy, which causes issues in a couple of corners, but it's not so different to previous years and certainly not as bad as we feared. The second session didn't look as strong, it was easy to overheat the tyres and that was making it harder to be consistent. Lewis had a lap deleted that would have us looking more competitive, but regardless, it seemed like we'd lost a bit of pace. That could be down to a number of things; perhaps we'd not adapted to the hotter conditions well, others may have improved, or it could be that some of our changes haven't worked as expected. It's useful to have found a few issues that we can get stuck into this this evening as there's plenty we can do to improve, but the overall feeling from the second session is that it's going to be very tight at the front and both Red Bulls are looking like they are in the fight for pole."

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Red Bull

Perez set an eye-catching time in FP1 on the hard compound tyre, with Verstappen the quicker of the two on the softs. Roll on the afternoon session, and it went the way of the Mexican, as Perez finished on top of the timing sheet in a practice session for the first time since Baku, which bodes well for him. As for Verstappen, he had a tussle with Hamilton where he lost track position – which left him unimpressed to say the least – and then picked up traffic on both of his flying runs. No representative time on the softs for the Dutchman leaves question marks over his pace going into FP3.

READ MORE: Verstappen explains traffic frustrations – and that moment with Hamilton – in FP2 at COTA

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:35.806, P3; FP2: 1:35.824, P8

“Overall it wasn’t easy out there today, the track is quite bumpy and to find the right compromise on the car hasn’t been the easiest but there are a few positive things to look at and we’ll continue to work on that overnight. In FP2, we didn’t manage to put the lap in on the soft tyre and it was also just a bit of a mess with the traffic. Hopefully everything will come together tomorrow so we can get a good lap in qualifying.”

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:36.798, P7; FP2: 1:34.946, P1

“Today was a good day and FP2 was promising, but it’s going to be very tight in qualifying tomorrow. Mercedes were certainly very strong so let’s see what they have when it counts. I think we have to find a couple of tenths and put everything together to be in the mix for pole. There’s a lot to be done now with the engineers to try and improve the car, I think there is some margin to improve our long run pace and our tyre degradation, but all in all it was a positive Friday.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari

The Scuderia were best of the rest in FP1, despite Leclerc spinning into the gravel and coming perilously close to the barriers. In the afternoon session, Sainz rode his luck – and the kerbs – to get the beating of his team mate from the initial runs, before Leclerc turned the tables on their final laps. But more to the point, can they respond to what is looking like an extremely quick McLaren here?

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:36.334, P4; FP2: 1:35.572, P7

"It feels great to be back in the United States. The atmosphere here is always so special, both at the circuit and around the city of Austin. Everyone is really friendly and enthusiastic and it’s been great to already see fans waving their flags and supporting us in the grandstands today.

"In terms of our sessions, we ran through the planned programme, testing a bit of everything. What was challenging were the bumps on the track which made it very tricky to drive.

"With temperatures running quite high, tyre management was a key factor. Tyres overheated, especially in the third sector. You have to find a perfect balance between pushing in the first sector while losing time in the last one, or saving the tyres in the first part to be quicker at the end of your lap. We will do some more work in FP3 to understand how to optimise this ahead of qualifying tomorrow."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:36.508, P5; FP2: 1:35.919, P9

"It’s good to be back in Austin! The track felt great as always, right from the start. It’s a great circuit and very enjoyable to drive. It’s got bumpier over the years but I think it gives character to the track and it presents new challenges for the cars and the drivers.

"We tried different set ups today and improved a bit from FP1 to FP2. Overall, I’m happy with our Friday and the pace is promising, taking into account I got traffic in Sector 3 of my fast lap and couldn’t close an otherwise good looking lap.

"Track temperature was very high today and that obviously had an effect on the long runs, where degradation appeared quickly on the softs. That could make things tricky come Sunday, so we’ll keep an eye on it."

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Scuderia Ferrari SF21 during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

McLaren

McLaren so often don’t show their full hand on a Friday, but in Austin they seemed to. Norris complained of something loose in his cockpit, which required investigation, and then opted for some set-up changes but eventually got some clean runs in – and looked very quick. As for Ricciardo, he had a quieter first day, opting for plenty of soft tyre runs and keeping back some harder compounds for the weekend.

READ MORE: Norris says late set-up changes key as he takes impressive P2 in Friday practice at COTA

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:37.458, P16; FP2: 1:35.457, P5

“It was a pretty good day, pretty solid. There are some good signs. Still some work to do, for sure, there’s a few things overnight – but nothing crazy. I think we’ll work through it, a few little set-up changes, but I think we’re in a decent place. We’re obviously competitive, both cars in the top five, so I’ll try to find a few tenths overnight. It’s just good to be back in Texas. The great state that is Texas. I’m Australian by birth, Texan by the good grace of God!”

Lando Norris - FP1: 1:36.855, P8; FP2: 1:35.203, P2

“A decent Friday. It was warm today, and a bit tricky at times – quite bumpy and windy. So not ideal in terms of driving conditions, but in terms of pace, relative to others, I think we’re in a good position. Tonight we'll work to try and make it a bit nicer to drive, and a bit easier to have some confidence to push that little bit more come qualifying. Let's see what we can do tomorrow.”

Andrea Stella, Executive Director, Racing

“It’s great to be back at the Circuit of the Americas. It’s a beautiful track layout, very bumpy but that makes the challenge more interesting – finding the right set-up, making the right compromises. It’s an enjoyable place to work and the fans generate a fantastic atmosphere. Today was pretty normal on track. We know this track is quite aggressive on tyres and so we were focused primarily on understanding tyre behaviour in these unusually warm conditions. We looked okay relative to the midfield battle and tomorrow we’ll hopefully continue to learn and progress, working towards scoring good points on Sunday.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alpine

Alonso had an opening day to forget at the Circuit of The Americas. He was ordered to stop out on track at the start of FP1 with a mechanical issue, which saw his car leaking fluid in the run-off area. Then in the afternoon session, he managed to spin through the gravel at Turn 19, kissing the barriers for good measure. By contrast Ocon had a much more straightforward day, but might need to find a few tenths if he is to make it into Q3 tomorrow.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:36.970, P12; FP2: 1:36.158, P11

“Today for me was like discovering a totally different track to when I was last here in 2018. There are a lot more bumps, more dirt on track and some different rules with track limits in places, so it was an interesting challenge today. We improved the car from FP1 to FP2 and we still have areas to work on. It’s not perfect or where we want to be, but we can work overnight and see what we can do tomorrow. It was nice to sample the helmet camera today. It’s awesome to see the footage, as it really gives the vision of how it feels driving a Formula 1 car. To have that technology available is definitely something cool as it shares our point of view. Only 20 drivers have that perspective, and now we can share a glimpse of that to everyone!”

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:37.068, P15; FP2: 1:36.376, P13

“It was not the easiest day out there for us. We had an issue in FP1, but our mechanics fixed it very quickly which was good, and we got some running in. It’s quite demanding here with the bumpy surface and track conditions. I clipped the barrier at the end of the session, so it shows how challenging it is. It’s difficult to know where we are in the timesheets, but there is definitely some work for us to do tonight. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow and hopefully we have a slightly smoother day.”

Davide Brivio, Racing Director

“It was not our strongest Friday of the season today. For Fernando especially, it was more complicated than usual. We had an issue in FP1, which was quickly fixed, with no physical damage sustained to the car and then in FP2 he lightly hit the wall at Turn 19 towards the end of the session. So, he missed out on some track time today but it was a more productive day for Esteban. Now we will try to use the all information that we collectively have to improve for tomorrow. There was some pre-weekend talk on the bumps here, they are an issue but the drivers are trying to adapt to it together with the car. We’re looking forward to tomorrow, we’ll keep working and we aim to make some improvements.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine A521 Renault during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

AlphaTauri

It was a mixed bag for AlphaTauri, with Gasly looking quick in the first session and there or thereabouts in the second. He had the beating of his team mate in both, with Tsunoda struggling to get to grips with this bumpy circuit. But the rookie could well find his stride tomorrow, and should still be carrying some confidence after making it to Q3 last time out in Turkey.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:36.611, P6; FP2: 1:36.242, P12

“It’s been quite a difficult afternoon for us, the car just didn’t seem to click at all, so we’ve got a lot of work to do ahead of tomorrow. I think this is the toughest FP2 we’ve had this season, it’s very strange as up until now we’ve been competitive everywhere, but it’s been very difficult here in Austin today. We’ll work hard tonight, I’m sure we definitely have more pace to find, and I’m confident we can be more competitive come qualifying.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:37.954, P18; FP2: 1:36.983, P16

“It was a really enjoyable first day running here in Austin, this is obviously another new track for me but I think I’ve found a good approach quite quickly and it’s been fun to drive. However, there are lots of things for us to work on tonight, as the pace of the car so far isn’t quite there, and I’ve also struggled with track limits at Turn 19. We’ll analyse all the data and I believe we can be back to our strong performance again tomorrow.”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“Today’s running has proved more difficult than we’d anticipated, and not what we’ve come to expect as a team on a Friday. The track is tough on tyres, especially on the rears, and that combined with the hotter than usual temperatures gave the tyres a very hard time. We really struggled with oversteer, so we tried a variety of set-up items across FP1 and FP2, but it was still difficult to find the stability that was required. We will need to review all the changes we have made today and refine the choices for tomorrow. We’ve got a good team of engineers so I am confident that we will understand the limitations from the data and return to our usual level of competitiveness for FP3.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Pierre Gasly of France driving the (10) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Vettel is set to start from the back of the grid on Sunday thanks to a raft of engine penalties – as such, it was no surprise to see the German concentrate on longer runs and race set up in Austin. That left Stroll to fly the flag for the team which he did with aplomb in FP2, winding up a very impressive sixth despite spending much of the session with something in his eye – and it wasn't just the emotion of returning to this brilliant track.

READ MORE: Bottas, Russell and Vettel hit with United States Grand Prix grid penalties after PU changes

Sebastian Vettel – FP1: 1:36.982, P14; FP2: 1:36.718, P15

“Today we ran a different practice programme to the majority of the field because we will be taking a grid penalty [due to changing elements of the power unit], so that means our focus is on the race, rather than qualifying. We maximised the sessions to work on longer runs and gather lots of data to review. Hopefully, that will help us on Sunday and we will be in good shape for the race. Although we will start further back, Austin is a track where you can overtake and the hotter conditions will be a tough test for all of us, which will hopefully create opportunities to move forward in the race.”

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:36.972, P13; FP2: 1:35.561, P6

“It was great fun out there today. There were big crowds in the stands and I enjoy this track. It has been a positive start so far with competitive pace and we have learned a lot too. Managing the tyres will be crucial on Sunday because it is very easy to overheat them in these hot conditions, and we saw that today, plus it is a demanding track generally with some quick sections. We finished the day in P6 and, while I expect others to improve tomorrow, we have some good momentum that we will carry into the weekend.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo often flatter to deceive on a Friday, finishing on the fringes of the top 10 before dropping down the order come qualifying. But certainly as it stands, they look to have found something extra, with both drivers impressing on the opening day here. That was until Raikkonen spun at the end of FP1, with Giovinazzi managing to miss the pit lane entry at the end of FP2, forcing the Italian into F1’s version of a three-point turn. The sessions were both solid for the team, the endings less so.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:36.876, P10; FP2: 1:36.558, P14

“It’s been quite a straightforward Friday, no big issues so we could do our job. We are satisfied with where we are at the moment, hopefully we can make some more progress tonight and be fast enough in qualifying. This is a track we all enjoy, it’s a bit bumpy and it’s always a challenge to put a lap together but that’s nothing to complain about. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:36.874, P9; FP2: 1:36.138, P10

“It was a good day, with a positive FP1 and really good FP2 in terms of qualifying as well as race pace. I’m very happy about it, hopefully tomorrow we can also have a smooth qualifying with a similar level of performance. In general terms, it was a good start to our weekend. The bumps in the track are still there and some corners will be very tricky in terms of comfort with the car, but these are the conditions for everyone and we will do our best. We never give up, we showed in the last few races we can be in the fight for points so that has to be our target.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Antonio Giovinazzi of Italy driving the (99) Alfa Romeo Racing C41 Ferrari during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Williams

Russell is another driver carrying grid penalties into the race, and as such opted not to push it in pursuit of qualifying lap times out there. That leaves the door ajar for Latifi to impress here, and the Canadian looked solid although he blotted his copybook with a big lock up towards the end of FP2.

READ MORE: American racer Logan Sargeant joins Williams’ Driver Academy

George Russell – FP1: 1:36.966, P11; FP2: 1:37.490, P19

"It’s great to be back here in the USA and driving around the incredible Circuit of the Americas track. The race here was sorely missed last year. Nevertheless, we had a tricky day today dealing with the high temperatures and difficult track conditions. We’ve got plenty to review overnight and will be working hard and aiming to solve some issues ahead of FP3 and Qualifying tomorrow."

Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:37.463, P17; FP2: 1:37.254, P18

"It's been a tricky day, but despite that, I’ve really enjoyed getting my first proper laps in at the Circuit of The Americas. It's a fun track to drive, especially that first sector. I think there's definitely some work we can do overnight to improve the feeling of the car for both low and high fuel runs. The conditions we’ve had today have obviously been quite different to what we've experienced over the last few races with much hotter track temperatures, so that presents some challenges. Hopefully we can make some gains, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do tomorrow."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"Today has been difficult, with tyre management dominating most of our running. We didn’t get it quite right this afternoon and we’ve got a lot to go through tonight to work out a better approach to race pace in the hot conditions. In FP1 the pace was quite good and so fundamentally the car isn’t too bad, but we do need to find a better compromise for race stint pace.

"George has fitted a new power unit this weekend and so will start at the back of the grid and this obviously increases the importance of his race pace this weekend.

"Fortunately, the bumps on the circuit aren’t too bad and haven’t compromised our running too much. They can cause a few issues if abused and so we will need to continue to treat them with some respect.

"The circuit remains an interesting and exciting challenge and we are looking forward to taming it better tomorrow."

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Nicholas Latifi of Canada driving the (6) Williams Racing FW43B Mercedes during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Clive Mason - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Mazepin was lucky in FP1 when he spun down at Turn 19, as unlike Alonso, he managed to avoid smacking into the barriers. The Russian didn’t set a representative time in that session as a result, and complained of traffic in the second session. Schumacher was also in the thick of the action, as he collided with Perez in FP1 in a classic case of practice miscommunication. Luckily both cars emerged unscathed from that one, with the German then impressing in the afternoon as he got the beating of both Williams cars.

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Mick Schumacher – FP1: 1:38.866, P19; FP2: 1:37.041, P17

“I loved it – it’s fun driving here and it’s nice seeing the crowd out. It was a decent start to our first weekend in Austin with still lots to do though. We had a few patches which were very grippy for some reason, some others that weren’t, but it’s about finding the right line and the right set up for these circumstances which I think will stay all weekend. It would be great to have another Q2 appearance to confirm what we did in Turkey, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Nikita Mazepin – FP1: 1:42.239, P20; FP2: 1:38.026, P20

“It was bumpy and high-speed which isn’t ideal, but it definitely gives character to the circuit. I haven’t had the easiest day with traffic, the track is very long but for some reason I was just not able to fit it together. I saw lots of cars complaining about it so unfortunately on a track where degradation is so high, we couldn’t get the one lap pace we needed today. It should be good tomorrow.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“Well, the most important element of today was that we were back in the United States in front of fans having missed out last year. It’s been great to see everyone here enjoying themselves and the atmosphere is always energetic at COTA – it’s a real boost and bodes well for the rest of the weekend. On track, it was a solid day – nothing too unexpected from the two free practice sessions, it was all pretty standard. We are where we are performance-wise – we know that, but it was good for Nikita and Mick to get their first laps in at another new circuit, it’s all part of their rookie experience.”

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AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 22: Nikita Mazepin of Russia driving the (9) Haas F1 Team VF-21 Ferrari during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing

"Despite the circuit having been resurfaced for around 40% of its total length, there's not a huge difference in terms of abrasion compared to our last visit in 2019, and it's also even more bumpy. The biggest difference has instead been the weather, with both track and ambient temperatures considerably warmer than the cool conditions experienced a couple of years ago. As expected in today's warm temperatures, there was a bit of overheating on the soft C4 compound rear tyre, which is quite stressed given the severe traction demands of this circuit in the final sector especially. Managing the soft tyre looks to be key, and this is something that the teams will be looking at in more detail tomorrow, with some likely to try and get through Q2 on the medium tyre in order to start with it on Sunday and open up a wider range of strategic possibilities for the race. However, with a bigger performance gap compared to the soft than we saw this morning, the soft certainly has its advantages too: especially with a two-stopper looking likely."

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