- Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton [Copyright: F1]

F1 US GP, Friday: Top 2 duel; mid-pack mixed; Alonso spin & more

All what happened in Friday of F1 US GP.

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The Friday in F1 US GP was not smoothest for all as there were offs and spins along with some gravel moments as COTA returns after a year's gap.

It was not a straightforward Friday at the front of the field to start the F1 US GP weekend. While Mercedes showed strong pace all-through, Red Bull showed signs of catching up amid some tensions, especially during FP2 between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

While Valtteri Bottas led the way in FP1, it was Sergio Perez in FP2 as the two non-title fighters doing their job in the current scheme of things. The Finn had his sixth F1 power unit installed to improve his power unit pool amid reliability concerns.

For Hamilton and Verstappen, they couldn't set a proper time in FP2 where the former had his lap deleted due to track limits and the latter did not set his time after a run-in with the Brit. In fact, it started a lap before when the Dutchman got ahead of the Mercedes driver.

Earlier on the out lap, Verstappen went on the inside of Hamilton on the left-hander but was done without them being close to each other. However, the Brit got through the Dutchman on the final corner, which sent him off the road for some bit.

They then had a drag race until Turn 1, where Hamilton stayed ahead eventually, but not before Verstappen termed him an 'idiot' while laughing on the radio. It was not necessary, but in a crucial point, the mindgames are fully on between the F1 title contenders.

Hamilton: "Generally, yes it’s been a good day, but still work to do unfortunately. But I’m not unfortunate, it’s the way it is. FP1 was a really good session, made some changes, and wasn’t happy in FP2, and still, not such bad pace, but I think we lost some ground to everyone, or they gained ground, so we have some work to do tonight, as always."

Verstappen: “I don’t know, we were all lining up to go for our laps and I don’t really understand what happened there. In FP2 on the soft tyre, I didn’t put in the lap – but overall, I mean, it’s not easy out there. You know, the track is quite bumpy and to fight the right compromise with the car hasn’t been easy so far, but I mean there are a few positive things to look at and yes, we’ll continue to work on it also overnight… it didn’t particularly feel bad on the short run. It was just a mess with the traffic."

Behind the Top 2 F1 teams, it was a mixed bag with the likes of Ferrari and McLaren in the mix along with Alfa Romeo in the Top 10. While McLaren did not shine as much in FP1, they did a better job in FP2 as it was reverse in the case of Ferrari. It wasn't easy for the drivers had both teams saw offs or lock-ups from its drivers.

Amid the F1 cars of AlphaTauri, Alpine and Aston Martin, there was some hope shown from Alfa Romeo after they got a double Top 10 finish in FP1 and FP2. They have had better practice showing before, but by Saturday and Sunday, the others catch up.

Norris: "It was a good day in terms of result and pace, but not easy to achieve that. Difficult just because of the wind and the bumps and the conditions – it just makes it very tricky out there. And even with the set-up – the first couple of runs I struggled quite a bit but then the final run we made some changes and I was much happier with the car and could push it more and then the lap time came easier.

"So I think we’re in a good place because I feel like we can quite easily make some changes tomorrow to give myself more confidence, and confidence is lap time, a lot of the time. So decent first day, and look forward to the rest. It's tough because there is just a lot of degradation and you can still be fast but with a lot of degradation because everyone’s struggling with a similar thing just because of the temperature and the track surface and so on.

"But I also made it tricky because I ran the tyres which I flat-spotted, which makes it feel a lot worse. You want to do the same lap times all the time and when you just see it slowly ‘degging’ off it doesn’t feel good but sometimes that’s just the way it is, so it’s interesting and probably going to make for a good race on Sunday: who can keep the tyres in a good condition?"

Sainz: "I have a smile because first of all I have enjoyed myself a lot, it’s a great track to drive and every lap that I do here I just enjoy it. And the car, the set-up in FP1 was quite tricky with the bumps, some set-up tuning and for FP2 we managed to improve it quite a lot – so I was a bit happier in FP2 although the timesheets don’t show it, because I had a pretty scrappy third sector with traffic and a mistake. Obviously these are sensitive cars to wind and dirty air, we need big spaces between cars… And if you encounter traffic like I did in the last sector, with how critical the tyres are at the end of the lap with overheating, how hot it is, dirty air plus overheating, it can get very messy."

Giovinazzi: "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."

Just outside the Top 10 were the likes of Alpine, Aston Martin and AlphaTauri. It was double-trouble for Fernando Alonso as after a bad start in FP1, he had a spinning end in FP2, leaving him to extract more performance in FP3 and then in qualifying.

For Pierre Gasly, he wasn't in his usual step as he noted about struggles in the car. On Aston Martin side, the focus of Sebastian Vettel was more about the race pace as he is to start from the back along with Williams' George Russell due to an engine penalty.

Alonso: "It was not easy today, not a super smooth Friday for us. An issue in FP1 and then a spin in FP2, so some work to do tonight. I think the performance is not unlocked yet on our car and then we’re struggling with the balance, so let’s see. A lot of work to do. I think the issue was something on the water system so we had to stop because the engine was running without water at that point. They did a good job to fix it and I still did some laps in FP1, but as I said we were not happy with the balance with any of the tyres, so still some work. I don’t think that is a huge issue. The tyres struggle a little bit more, yes, but it’s the same for everybody. I don’t think it’s going to be a big thing."

Vettel: "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."

Gasly: "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."

Here's FIA prescribing a minimum time to avoid traffic issues: www.fia.com/sites/default/files/decision-document/2021%20United%20States%20Grand%20Prix%20-%20Race%20Directors'%20Note%20SC2-SC1%20Time%20.pdf

[Image courtesy: F1] [Note: This story was written on FormulaRapida.net]

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