Max Verstappen set the pace in the opening practice session for the United States Grand Prix, with the Red Bull Racing driver beating Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by just under two tenths of a second as championship leader Lewis Hamilton finished eighth.
Red Bull Racing’s early weekend pace was confirmed by Alex Albon’s third place at the end of the session, 0.259s behind his team-mate and it was the Thai deriver who also set the pace in the opening half of the session.
Verstappen then moved to soft tyres and powered to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:34.057. Vettel then made the same switch and arrived with a time of 1:34.226 to split the Red Bulls.
Fourth place in the session went to Pierre Gasly. The Toro Rosso driver continued the good form he showed last weekend in Mexico City, where he finished ninth, to post a time of 1:35.008, just under a second off Verstappen.
The French was the last man inside a second of top spot. Fifth-placed Daniel Ricciardo finished 1.2s off the pace, while Romain Grosjean of home favourites Haas was a further nine hundredths of a second back.
Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari was seventh, 1.3s off Verstappen’s P1 time at the end of a tricky session for the Monegasque driver who suffered what he reported as an engine issue early on and then a lurid slide later in the session as he struggled for grip on the cold and bumpy circuit.
Lewis Hamilton took an uncharacteristic eighth place in the session. The Mercedes driver, who can wrap up a sixth world title this weekend, completed 32 laps but failed to set a really representative time in the session. The Briton might have ended the session towards the foot of the order but a late soft tyre run boosted Hamilton to P8 at the chequered flag though he was 1.382.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas did finish low down on the timesheet, with the Finn 17that the flag as he spent the bulk of the session on Pirelli’s 2020 development tyres and this weekend’s medium compound specification.
Ninth place in the session went to Lance Stroll of Racing Point and the final top-10 spot went to Kevin Magnussen of Haas who along with Verstappen and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz is set to make his 100thGrand Prix start on Sunday.
2019 FIA Formula One United States Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 26 1:34.057
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 30 1:34.226 0.169
3 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 28 1:34.316 0.259
4 Pierre Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso 32 1:35.008 0.951
5 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 29 1:35.263 1.206
6 Romain Grosjean Haas 24 01:35.356 1.299
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 23 1:35.380 1.323
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 32 1:35.439 1.382
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point 31 1:35.586 1.529
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas 23 1:35.659 1.602
11 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 31 1:35.661 1.604
12 Carlos Sainz McLaren 26 1:35.723 1.666
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 22 1:35.854 1.797
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point 29 1:35.971 01.914
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 26 1:36.037 1.980
16 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 24 1:36.124 2.067
17 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 40 1:36.159 2.102
18 Lando Norris McLaren 23 1:36.263 2.206
19 Robert Kubica Williams 28 1:37.948 3.891
20 Nicholas Latifi Williams 7 1:41.112 7.055