After taking a year off from the Circuit of Americas track in Austin Texas, the Mercedes team was able to keep their momentum from Turkey going for the first practice session but found themselves out of the top two spots for the second session.
With high track temperatures increasing throughout the day, tyre degradation was a crucial concern for Lewis Hamilton while his team mate Valtteri Bottas faced a more critical problem requiring a new ICE unit that will cause him to have a five-place grid penalty for the race.
Hamilton was second fastest in FP1, and third in FP2. The Brit described his day as “good” in general; however for FP2, he saw room for improvement:
“Generally, it’s been a good day but there’s still work to do. The first session was really good, but I made some changes for FP2 and I wasn’t as happy with the car,” stated Hamilton.
After some changes were made for the second practice the team seemed to have lost some pace and some progress. Looking ahead for qualifying their focus will be to look into the issue at hand and decipher what went wrong.
“The pace wasn’t bad, but I think we lost a bit of ground to everyone, so we need to dig into the data tonight and figure out why. The surface here feels rougher and that means it’s a struggle to keep the temperature out of the tyres, so there’s more degradation than we’ve experienced before.”
“It’s been a productive day so we have plenty of findings that we should be able to navigate well and improve for tomorrow.”
Hamilton’s teammate Bottas put down the fastest lap in practice one and then trailed behind the 7-time world champion in fourth at the end of the second practice session. After, the decision to change a component for his ICE unit, the team focused on long-runs to gauge his car’s pace. Despite the five-place grid penalty, Bottas feels he has a good and competitive car.
“I think we have a good car here and even with my five-place grid penalty, we can still have a good race from wherever I end up starting. Today showed it is pretty close at the front but it’s still all to play for,” replied Bottas.
“Because of the penalty, the main thing for me was focusing on the long-run pace and that’s what we did, especially in FP2.”
Like Hamilton, the Finn endured some challenges with low grip on his tyres but also faced some balance issues as well.
“There’s still a lot of work to do with the set-up, as it wasn’t easy to drive and, in some places, the track has lost quite a lot of grip, so the balance was inconsistent.”
“But we’ll look at the best options tonight and see what we can do, because I will be racing other cars and need to overtake if I want to make it to the podium and fight for the win.”
The Mercedes drivers will need to be fighting at the top of the grid and work together to fight the Red Bull team on race day and the first step will be to secure top qualifying positions. While Mercedes currently has a thirty six-point lead over the Red Bull team in the constructor’s standings, they will need to rely on extracting the most out of both cars’ performance come race day.