Lewis Hamilton made the ideal start to a potential championship-clinching weekend by topping a wet-dry Practice One at the United States GP.
Hamilton, who can claim a fourth world title in Austin if results go his way, finished the opening session with a best time of 1:36.335 on the supersoft tyre – more than half a second quicker than closest championship rival Sebastian Vettel.
Valtteri Bottas was third but 0.6seconds adrift of his Mercedes team-mate’s benchmark while Max Verstappen, fresh from a surprise new contract announcement from Red Bull, finished fourth.
But a damp start to the weekend was hardly ideal preparation for the teams and drivers as heavy rainfall before the session meaning track action started on the intermediate compound, with Vettel the first man onto slicks just before the halfway point.
Drivers’ Championship title permutations Result Hamilton will be champion if… Hamilton wins Vettel sixth or lower Hamilton second Vettel ninth or lower and Bottas doesn’t win Hamilton third or lower Title race goes to Mexico
But while Vettel improved as the track dried out, Kimi Raikkonen struggled in the conditions and was seventh – 0.7s down on his team-mate. Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, was all the way back in 16th as he failed to set a representative dry-tyre time in the Red Bull.
That allowed the likes of Stoffel Vandoorne and Felipe Massa to rise up the timesheet, with the Belgian an impressive fifth – though there wasn’t any joy for Fernando Alonso in the sister McLaren.
Like Verstappen, Alonso is celebrating a new contract this weekend, but he wasn’t able to set a single timed lap in FP1 due to a hydraulic leak on his McLaren.
Elsewhere, there were impressive performances from Carlos Sainz and Brendon Hartley in their respective Renault and Toro Rosso debuts.
Sainz was 10th and well clear of new team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, while Hartley – driving a single-seater for the first time in five years – was 14th and 1.1s clear of F2 starlet Sean Geleal, who was standing in for Daniil Kvyat.
Hartley will, however, face a grid penalty this weekend along with Hulkenberg, Vandoorne and Verstappen.
More to follow.
Will Lewis Hamilton clinch his fourth world championship in Austin? Watch the US GP weekend live on Sky Sports F1 – the race begins at 8pm on Sunday. Want to watch but not got Sky F1? Buy a NOW TV pass from £6.99!