October 19, 2018
Green and blue were the dominant colors at this the first day of practice for the FORMULA 1 2018 PIRELLI UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX. Those are the colors of the Intermediate and Wet Weather tyres, which were the only ones used by all 22 drivers who took to the track today. It was hardly unexpected as the forecast was for rain and it proved to be spot on. The rain did ease off occasionally during the three hours of practice, but never enough for anyone to contemplate running slick tyres.
In the morning, conditions were not too bad, so the hardy and heroic spectators who braved the elements at least got to see drivers complete a reasonable number of laps. However, in the afternoon, it wasn’t until 47 minutes of the session had ticked by that Brendon Hartley broke the silence, driving down pit lane in the Toro Rosso. Once again today, Lewis Hamilton demonstrated that, wet or dry, he was the man to beat, topping the timesheets in both sessions. The reigning world champion completed the least number of laps, 6 in FP1 and 3 in FP2, doing one run in each. The fastest time of 1.47.502 was set in the morning, when track conditions were significantly better than in the afternoon.
Hamilton was over a second faster than the second-placed driver in both sessions. In the morning, his Mercedes team-mate, Valtteri Bottas stopped the clocks in 1.48.806 and in the afternoon, it was Pierre Gasly in the Toro Rosso who was second with a lap of 1.49.728. Of course, today’s times don’t mean much, given that the weather for Sunday’s race is meant to be better, but they are still a reference point of sorts for tomorrow’s qualifying. Although according to the official forecast from Meteo France, there is now only a 40% chance of rain for
The weekend in which Hamilton could be crowned world champion for the fifth time has therefore got off to the best possible start for the Englishman. His prospects improved still further when his only rival for the title, Sebastian Vettel, involuntarily gifted him an extra advantage for Sunday. The Ferrari driver was fifth and tenth in the first and second sessions respectively, but he has been hit with a three-place grid penalty for failing to slow down sufficiently when red flags were waved during the first session. This happened when Charles Leclerc’s Sauber sprayed gravel onto the track. According to the bulletin, “the Stewards found that Vettel did, in fact, fail to stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU in marshalling sectors 6 and 7.” The penalty definitely does nothing to help Vettel’s chances of keeping his Drivers’ title hopes alive. The Mercedes man has to score at least eight points more than his
Ferrari rival, with the gap between the two of them after the last round in Japan standing at 67 points.