Valtteri Bottas pipped Mercedes team mate Lewis Hamilton to set the pace in opening practice for the United States Grand Prix, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen nearly a second adrift in third…
Bottas bolted on a set of soft tyres and pumped in a 1m34.874s to inch ahead of Hamilton by just 0.045s. However during the session, it was revealed Mercedes had fitted the Finn’s car with a sixth internal combustion engine, which will trigger a five-place grid penalty.
Mercedes were expected to be strong at the Circuit of The Americas, having taken pole position at every event at the track during the hybrid era that began in 2014, but it was something of a surprise that they had such a margin over Red Bull amid soaring temperatures.
Verstappen’s best effort was 0.932s off the pace – though he did use one less set of tyres than his chief rivals. His team mate Sergio Perez was down in seventh, his best effort intriguingly coming on the hard tyre, despite the Mexican also running the softest rubber.
FORMULA 1 ARAMCO UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX 2021
Practice 1 results
|1 Valtteri BOTTAS Mercedes||1:34.874|
|2 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes||+0.045s|
|3 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing||+0.932s|
|4 Charles LECLERC Ferrari||+1.460s|
|5 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari||+1.634s|
Ferrari were best of the rest in fourth and fifth, with Charles Leclerc – who spun across the gravel (below) – half a second behind Verstappen, but two tenths clear of team mate Carlos Sainz, with Pierre Gasly continuing his impressive run of form with the sixth-best time in the AlphaTauri.
Lando Norris ran well wide at the final sequence of corners on his last quick run and then heavily flat-spotted his last set of softs, but his previous best was good enough for eighth, ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi in P9, who had to box to swap helmets as it felt uncomfortable.
Kimi Raikkonen completed the top 10 while George Russell took 11th for Williams in another strong showing for the Mercedes-bound driver, but he will be starting from the back of the grid having taken a new ICE, turbocharger and MGU-H, which will trigger penalties.
Esteban Ocon, who was running the visor cam for this session, ended up 12th, just 0.004s off Russell, but it wasn’t so smooth for Alpine team mate Fernando Alonso, who stopped out on track at Turn 12 early in the session to bring out the red flag and was classified 15th.