Lewis Hamilton mastered the wet at the Circuit of the Americas as he began what could be his title-deciding race weekend with a P1.
Dank and rainy conditions greeted the drivers in Austin on Friday morning.
The rain let up in the minutes prior to first practice, however, puddles of standing water meant warnings of slippery conditions went up and down the pit lane.
Stoffel Vandoorne handed his McLaren over to Lando Norris with Seal Gelael driving Brendon Hartley’s Toro Rosso. Force India opted to delay Nicholas Latifi’s run until Abu Dhabi, putting Esteban Ocon back in the car.
One by one the drivers – including Lewis Hamilton, who can wrap up the title this weekend – slipped and slid their way around the 5.5km COTA track for their installation laps before not-so-hastily making their way back to their respective garages.
Install lap complete ✅ #USGP ?? pic.twitter.com/k9yLraz3U5
— WILLIAMS RACING (@WilliamsRacing) October 19, 2018
But it wasn’t until 30 minutes into the session that Daniel Ricciardo set the first lap time of the weekend, a splashing 1:55.2 on the intermediate tyres.
This prompted others to venture out with Valtteri Bottas taking over at the top with a 1:48.8 while Charles Leclerc made the first notable mistake, spinning off the track and into the gravel at Turn 9.
Kicking up buckets of gravel onto the track, the session was red flagged to give the marshals in their sweeper vans an opportunity to clean it.
A quick off-track excursion for Leclerc… ?#USGP ?? #F1 pic.twitter.com/s1QaKksQ8c
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 19, 2018
FP1 resumed with 40 minutes on the clock with Hamilton, on intermediates, one of the first to head out. He went quickest with a 1:47.502.
With conditions improving in the final 30 minutes, more drivers ventured out causing a bit of a headache for Kimi Raikkonen: “Lots of traffic, I almost hit the Williams!”
Hamilton’s 1:47.5 stood as the time to beat with the championship leader finishing 1.3s ahead of Bottas with Max Verstappen a further 0.041s down.
Ricciardo was fourth ahead of the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen while Carlos Sainz, Romain Grosjean, Charles Leclerc and Marcus Ericsson completed the top ten. Ericsson was 3.5s off Hamilton’s pace.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:47.502
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1.304s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1.345s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1.824s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1.987s
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 2.426s
7 Carlos Sainz Renault 3.163s
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 3.319s
9 Charles Leclerc Sauber 3.459s
10 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 3.514s
11 Fernando Alonso McLaren 3.534s
12 Lando Norris McLaren 3.73s
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 3.732s
14 Sergio Perez Force India 3.957s
15 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 4.087s
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 4.112s
17 Esteban Ocon Force India 4.153s
18 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 4.215s
19 Lance Stroll Williams 4.394s
20 Sean Gelael Toro Rosso 5.123s
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