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What the teams said - practice in the United States

20 Oct 2017

A round-up of the opening day's events from the 2017 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Austin...

Mercedes

Some significant changes to the set-up made Hamilton’s car feel very good in FP1, and he continued that good work into FP2 to set the fastest times in each session. Bottas’s car was set up differently, and the Finn was less happy with his day, especially after flat-spotting a set of tyres in the morning. Nevertheless, Mercedes have made a good start to what could be a crucial weekend in the championship chase.

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:36.335, P1; FP2: 1:34.668, P1

"It's been an interesting day with lots of ups and downs in terms of how the track has moved around and how the car feels. But overall the car was feeling good. There are lots of areas we can improve on, but generally it feels like a solid platform and a solid start to the weekend. It was amazing to have so much support at the fan signing today and also arriving at the track yesterday. I seem to have a lot of support out here, which I am super grateful for. I'm excited to see everyone tomorrow."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:36.979, P3; FP2: 1:35.279, P4

"The first practice was compromised by the weather. We struggled to get many laps, and I also flat spotted at the tyres in FP1 quite badly, so we had limited running. But in second practice we got a lot of running done, both short runs and long runs. So in the end, we got everything from today that we needed. Setup-wise I think we have the usual work to do. Overall, it has been a pretty normal day. I enjoyed today, but I'm hoping there is more to come tomorrow. Hopefully it stays dry over the weekend, it would be nicer for the teams and the fans."

James Allison, Technical Director

"That's a promising start to the weekend. We have plenty of areas to improve, but we are generally quite happy with the car on all the rubber and both fuel loads. However, we are also conscious that Ferrari had a bit of a troubled day today, so maybe we haven't yet really seen where the opposition are at. I'm sure Valtteri will settle into the car a bit more overnight and we'll get it more to his liking. The early promise is of a decent weekend."

Ferrari

Ferrari had a patchy day, with Vettel spinning off on softs at the start of the afternoon session and later complaining that his SF70H’s front end felt like “jelly.” A new chassis will be built up for him to run tomorrow. Raikkonen, however, ran reliably and gathered valuable data. Vettel said overall that he isn’t worried, as the car felt quick.

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:36.928, P2; FP2: 1:35.192, P3

“It was a complicated afternoon and not an easy session, but the car is quick, so we don’t need to worry too much about it. The only lap I had was the one with the Ultrasofts. Before that, I made a mistake taking too much risk and pushing too early. The track was quite slippery and I lost the rear under braking. So, we lost a set of tyres, and then again, towards the end of the session, I felt that something was not right with the car. So, we checked a couple of times and now we are looking at the car to see if we can find something. I need to find the rhythm tomorrow and make sure everything’s in order”.

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:37.598, P7; FP2: 1:35.514, P6

“In the morning the weather was a bit tricky to start with, but all in all it was an ok day. Just a normal Friday, in which we tried different things and learned as much as possible. Every circuit can be tricky when you’re trying to go fast, and for sure there can always be an improvement; but it was only the first day of practice. We don’t know what the other teams were doing and obviously it’s too early to make any predictions. All we know is that tonight we have some work to do for tomorrow”.

Red Bull

Red Bull had a good, strong start, though there are questions still to be answered whether Verstappen, who was second fastest in FP2, might need a change of ICE. Both drivers reported a general lack of grip in the track surface, but believe they’ll stay close to the overall pace again tomorrow. More importantly, their race pace looked mighty…

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:39.366, P16; FP2: 1:35.463, P5

“It was not that easy today actually. The grip on the circuit was really low for what we were expecting with lap times. It’s humid so the tyres were getting really hot and then you struggle to generate the desirable grip on the car. We have a few things we can obviously try for tomorrow, now that we understand a bit more from these sessions. We didn’t really have the ideal set up but I think with all those things considered we’re not a million miles off the pace and if we can get it right tomorrow we can still be up there. That’s our target and that’s realistic so we’ll work on that and hopefully you’ll see us amongst the top three tomorrow.”

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:37.339, P4; FP2: 1:35.065, P2

“After a challenging year it’s a good feeling to sign a new contract and continue this strong relationship. I really believe in the team and they believe in me, we have a great working relationship and they gave me the chance to start a career in Formula One. We have had our ups and downs this year but I still feel really good in the team, you can see they have been working really hard to improve and today shows that we are again competitive. I enjoy being in this team which is very important for me so that’s why I decided to extend my contract. If we can learn from what happened this year I have no doubt that this team can build the best car on the grid and start 2018 competing at the front. I have learnt a lot this year after what has happened, which is definitely positive. Today we showed good pace both in long run simulation and short stints so I think we have the ability to achieve a good result here.”

McLaren

Vandoorne had a busy morning doing all the aero correlation, set-up work and tyre tests as Alonso’s car developed a hydraulic fault which took all session to rectify. Both drivers got going in the afternoon, however, and Alonso in particular looked close to a reasonable midfield pace. The Belgian will have an eighth ICE tomorrow, so will drop five grid places.

Fernando Alonso - FP1: No time set; FP2: 1:36.304, P7

“We lost the first session this morning because of an hydraulic issue, which was quite painful because we had several items to test, including for next year. We tried to catch up in the second session but it was difficult, so I think we’ll try them again in Mexico.

“I believe there’s still quite a bit to get out of the car – still some tenths to find, which I think probably everyone will find.

“We know Verstappen and Hulkenberg have penalties, so if we manage to get into Q3 tomorrow, we’ll be able to start from an even better position. But if we don’t make it into Q3, and we can start eighth or ninth on new tyres, it could be very good too.

“It’s nice to drive on this track with this year’s cars. It’s much more fun, especially through the fast corners in the first sector. There are many more bumps than last year, so we’re holding tight on the steering wheel and with the seatbelt tightly fastened. But it’s fun!”

Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:37.352, P5; FP2: 1: 37.463, P15

“Today was a reasonable Friday overall. This morning we faced tricky conditions to start with, but in the end it dried up and we had a really busy first practice session trying out some new aero parts. I feel that I put in a good performance, especially considering it was my first time driving on this circuit.

“FP2 was a bit more difficult for me. We struggled during the session with some traffic and I wasn’t 100 per cent happy with the car balance, but the long-run pace looked reasonable – I was a bit happier with our long-run pace than qualifying set-up.

“All in all, tomorrow we have a lot of margin to improve, but we know what we have to do and hopefully we should be lot closer."

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“After a tricky start to the morning thanks to the mixed conditions, we’ve managed to make good headway with our run programme despite a compromised first session for Fernando, leading us to swap the test plan between our two cars. Both the team and drivers adapted very well and pushed hard to complete a lot of useful running in both sessions.

“Much of our running today was spent evaluating various components and conducting run plans to set us up for race day. This is a track that suits our car better than most, so it’s important that we prepare ourselves as best we can to maximise every opportunity on Sunday. Stoffel’s pace in the first session was encouraging and both drivers collected a good amount of data from their longer runs this afternoon, so we look to be in good shape going into Saturday.

“We still have a lot of work to do before both drivers are happy with the set-up of the car, but, providing we can maintain good reliability, we hope we can have another productive day tomorrow where we can put ourselves in the best possible position in qualifying. Although Stoffel has a five-place grid penalty, Q3 has to be our aim for both cars and we’ll see what we can do from there.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“The first day of the United States Grand Prix began with unstable, damp weather making for tricky practice conditions. Nevertheless, Stoffel was able to run though his programme as scheduled. Fernando lost some time in FP1 after the team detected a hydraulic issue, but recovered enough track time in FP2 to gather sufficient data.

“There is definitely more room to improve in terms of the set-up in FP3 for both cars, and I still think we are capable of reaching Q3 in tomorrow's qualifying.

“This weekend we have introduced a new ICE in Stoffel’s car, and as a result he will incur a five-place grid penalty for the race on Sunday. Despite this we have a positive feeling about our PU after today’s session and we think our package will be quite competitive here.”

Force India

Both drivers were reasonably happy, though Ocon said they needed to work on the set-up for slow-speed corners. Perez indicated that they're likely to perform better should the weather stay warm, so they'll be crossing fingers for a sunnier day on Saturday.

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:37.861, P9; FP2: 1:36.481, P9

“We can be quite happy about today’s work. We gathered a lot of data and we’re in a good place for the rest of the weekend, even if I wasn’t overly convinced about the development tyres we tried this morning. It’s going to be tight to be best of the rest, but I am confident we can do that: the car has been feeling good, especially in hotter conditions, so we have a good base to build on.”

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:37.808, P8; FP2: 1:36.490, P10

“It was a positive day overall, testing different things on the car and working towards the ideal set-up. Finding the balance hasn’t been as immediate and easy as it was in Malaysia and Suzuka, so we still have a little bit of work to do, but we are getting closer to where I want it to be. I have no doubt it will be much better tomorrow. We still need to find something in the slow-speed corners and that’s where we will concentrate this evening.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“Despite a damp morning session, we worked our way through the job list and collected information on all three tyre compounds. Track temperatures were quite cool in the morning, but rose in the afternoon to levels that are more representative of what we expect for the rest of the weekend. This is a challenging track on which to strike the right balance between the high and low-speed sections, and that is where we will continue to focus our attention tonight. By the time we were doing long runs at the end of FP2, both drivers were happier, even though there’s still work to do ahead of qualifying. Overall, it was a pretty standard Friday which sets us up well for the rest of the weekend.”

Renault

Sainz got his Renault career off to a good start with the faster times in both sessions, but Hulkenberg was compromised in FP2 by an MGU-H problem. The German will have a new unit tomorrow, plus a new ICE and turbo, but will thus get a 20 grid-place penalty. The reasoning is that it’s better to take that here, where passing is possible, than next weekend in Mexico.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:38.904, P13; FP2: 1:36.534, P12

“It wasn’t an ideal Friday on my side of the garage, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. We need to get the car into its sweet spot. We know what we need to improve on the car. After a moist start to the day, the track was developing all the time. Of course, it’s always great to drive the Circuit of the Americas, and I’m sure we have more in hand for tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:38.093, P10; FP2: 1:36.529, P11

"It’s been a busy week with everything other than driving the car so it was fantastic to get out and drive for the team for the first time today! There was a lot to learn so I’m happy we ran through everything required. We made good progress, but we’ve got work to do as you’d expect. Tomorrow will certainly be interesting for my first qualifying session with Renault.”

Bob Bell, Chief Technical Officer

“The rain this morning forced us to adjust our programme, but we were able to get through most of our test items and gain most of the answers we were looking for. Overall it was a reasonable day for Nico and his comments about the car were consistent with the feedback he’s given us in recent events. It was Carlos’s first run in the car, his insight was fresh and useful, and by the end of the day his feeling about the car was consistent with Nico’s. We’ve had good reinforcement of where the car is and what we need to do to improve. Carlos fitted in really quickly; he was up to speed very rapidly and did a great job.”

Williams

Massa was very pleased with his day, having focused on trying the soft and ultrasofts on his FW40, while Stroll used the supersofts and ultrasofts. The Canadian’s headrest worked loose at one stage in FP2, and he said his car didn’t seem too happy after repeated use of the kerbs.

Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:37.570, P6; FP2: 1:36.460, P8

"It was a good Friday and it’s nice to be in the top 10. I feel the car is competitive so I’m happy. I was happy with the balance, and even in the wet conditions this morning the car felt okay. I really hope tomorrow we have a car as competitive as the one we had today so we can hopefully fight at the front and score some points."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:38.534, P12; FP2: 1:37.788, P16

"It was okay and the usual Friday, getting into it and figuring everything out for tomorrow. We had a couple of issues here and there with little things like the headrest coming loose on my best lap so I couldn't complete it, but all in all it was okay. Because of the problems in Japan, and again here with the headrest, I have never been able to feel the car with the new wing and the new configuration. That is a bit frustrating so we just have to start putting things together to finish the runs to show where we are. The car feels competitive so it is just about putting it all together tomorrow."

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

"We had a slightly damp start but we managed to get some good runs, comparing the baseline intermediate tyre with a new intermediate test tyre that Pirelli have brought to this event. We also managed a few of our own tests in the midst of that. In the rest of FP1, we completed a dry tyre run on each car and got a good baseline. FP2 was run to a more normal plan, comparing the soft and ultrasoft on Felipe’s car and the supersoft and ultrasoft on Lance’s car. Felipe’s pace looked reasonably good, unfortunately Lance had a loose headrest on his low fuel lap with the ultrasoft so his ultimate time on the sheet was compromised. It’s a very tight midfield, as always, so we need to work hard overnight to find every little bit of margin to get ourselves good grid positions tomorrow."

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso had rookies Hartley and Gelael in the cars in FP1, with Kvyat only joining in place of the latter for FP2. Hartley complained that his helmet was lifting in both sessions, and admitted that graduating to F1 was a steep learning curve, but felt that his day progressed well as his confidence in the huge amount of grip available grew by the lap. Kvyat said his car felt good, but that work is needed to hone the balance. Unfortunately, wherever Hartley qualifies tomorrow, he will start at the back as he inherits a 25 grid places worth of penalties for fitment of his car’s sixth ICE, sixth MGU-H, fifth energy store and fifth control electronics.

Daniil Kvyat - FP2: 1:36.761, P13

“I think it was a productive FP2. We were able to use plenty of the track time available and started the weekend on the right foot. We didn’t have the full day to correct the balance and issues we had, so we will now look at all of that overnight and see where we can make some progress. We’re not too far away of the guys ahead and we will aim to make a good improvement in order to be in that mix.”

Brendon Hartley - FP1: 1:39.267, P14; FP2: 1:37.987, P17

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy. I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day. The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tyres, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tyres there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tyre pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying. All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

Sean Gelael - FP1: 1:40.406, P17

“Another FP1 in tricky conditions… It seems like I’m bringing the rain to each track I’m driving at: it’s rained at every single Free Practice session I’ve had up until now! It’s a bit of a shame, but looking at the positive side, I’m well prepared in the wet! We were quite competitive at the start of the session. Then, when the track got quicker, my intermediate tyres were a bit warn out… After that, on the slicks, I got caught in a bit of traffic during my fast lap, so I lost a bit of time there, but overall it’s been okay and we were able to do many laps, which is always good. Hopefully next week in Mexico it stays dry!”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“A very busy day. We started off with three completely different drivers to the ones we had at the last race, which was interesting and exciting. Sean was in for this morning’s FP1 and he did some really good aero testing for us. This was important to validate some aero components. It was great to have Daniil back in the car – he was in for FP2. It’s also been fantastic to welcome Brendon to the team – he’s settled in straight away. The target was to give all of the drivers lots of laps. FP1 started off damp, which gave us the opportunity to test a new prototype inter tyre here, so we gave them that to learn and gather some data – it’s the same construction but a different compound. From the first run Brendon suffered from significant helmet lift, so we had to make quite a few changes throughout the day to the helmet, as well as adding a windscreen to improve that. At the start of FP2 we reached the point where he was comfortable in the car but we’ll do some small modifications again for tomorrow, but all in all he’s happy and performed very well. Daniil did a great job, getting straight back into it like he hadn’t been away. He’s really happy with the car and showed good low-fuel pace. We need to look at the high-fuel pace and degradation to see what we can do to learn for Sunday – ours was a little bit higher than expected, so we will look into that. We also had some new mechanical components to test across the cars, so we were also evaluating those today. Regarding the fact that Brendon will have a 25 grid position penalty, this is something that affects our decisions for tomorrow; especially in terms of tyre selection. Because we had to choose the tyres for this event several months ago, prior to knowing about the engine penalty, it even affected our choice for today. For Sunday, we’re saving more tyres of the harder type for Brendon, to give him maximum flexibility in the race. The focus for him is on long-run performance and giving him a car that he can overtake with in the race, whereas for Daniil, it’s a more conventional weekend, so the focus is on pure qualifying performance and not forgetting that he needs good long-run pace as well… The philosophy and set-up across the cars might be different to reflect that.”

Haas

Haas had a bit of a tricky day in their home event, with both drivers spinning at the start of FP2, and Grosjean in particular struggling on the ultrasofts. At one stage their drivers even complained about each other over team radio. Surely Saturday will be better...

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:39.336, P15; FP2: 1:38.387, P20

“We didn’t get the best of everything we could. We had a problem with the ultrasoft in the afternoon, so on the timesheet we are very far away. Even so, we haven’t got the sweet spot of the car. We just need to work on that. I think it’s just related to how we use the tires. We know this is something where we’re not always bang on. We need to find out where to put that. After that, I’m not too worried that the car’s going to come back to its level. It’s just getting the grip better with the compounds.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:38.408, P11; FP2: 1:37.285, P14

“It was a little bit inconclusive, but I wouldn’t say it’s been a bad day. It’s always good to go out and have a feel for the conditions on the inters, which we did this morning, and to see where the puddles are on track. We had a few technical issues on the car that we needed to sort – just little things – but the car feels OK. The balance doesn’t feel bad, and that’s the main thing. We have some stuff to work on for tomorrow, so we’ll see how that goes.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“It was an inconclusive FP1 and FP2. The conditions changed so much, in FP1 mainly. In the afternoon, as well, we were a little up and down. So, I cannot really assess where we are. All in all, we’re not unhappy, but we still have got work to do. There’s margin to get better. We look forward to tomorrow. We’ll see what we can do for FP3 and get prepared for qualifying.”

Sauber

No problems were reported within the Sauber camp for Leclerc or Wehrlein, but Ericsson lost some time in FP2 with an unspecified car issue.

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:40.448, P18; FP2: 1:38.262, P19

“It is always great to drive on this circuit; I really enjoy it. In FP1 we worked through our programme focusing on mechanical and aerodynamic tests. In the afternoon, I lost some time towards the end of FP2 due to a car issue. We are now looking into our data and working on making improvements for tomorrow’s qualifying.”

Pascal Wehrlein - FP2: 1:38.165, P18

“I am quite satisfied with the practice session considering that I did not drive in the morning. In FP2, my objective was to complete as many laps as possible. The car felt ok in terms of the balance. Regarding the lap times, the gap to our direct competitors was not too big either. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.”

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:40.828, P19

“I am very satisfied with my second FP1 session for the Sauber F1 Team. Following the wet session in Malaysia I had damp conditions at the beginning of FP1 again here in Austin. Towards the end of the session the track dried up. It was my first time in the car in these conditions. I like the track a lot; it is a lot of fun to drive. Overall, I am pleased that we got through our programme, which is the most important thing.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

“It was very much a day of contrasts in Austin, with damp weather in FP1 followed by warmer weather in the afternoon. And of course, one of the biggest contrasts was our pink ultrasoft tyres, compared to their usual purple colour, which certainly attracted a lot of attention! The varying conditions today meant that it was quite hard to obtain consistent data, but we saw the fastest-ever lap of Austin set in FP2 using the ultrasoft despite a tricky FP1. This morning we tried out a prototype intermediate compound, which was softer than the current compound, but with the same construction. There are still some questions to be answered about how all the compounds interact with the track this weekend.”