Max Verstappen went fastest in the first practice in Austin, but Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton offered a strong challenge to the Red Bull Formula 1 champion in a compact leaderboard.
- Hamilton fastest early on the hards vs Verstappen on the same tyre
- Track temp rising over 38 degrees provides a tyre test
- Stroll only gets five laps after brake issue
Despite the overall championships being already decided the way of Verstappen and Red Bull, major upgrades from AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin and Mercedes at least threatened to mix up the order with constructors' championship prize money still providing incentive for the teams over the last five races.
Perhaps buoyed by those updates, Hamilton was the fastest of the early runners, 0.104s faster than Verstappen on the same hard compound tyre before a sea of soft-tyre qualifying sims took an eraser to the timing screen.
Verstappen usurped early soft pacesetter Alex Albon by over six tenths, but it was Leclerc who emerged as the closest challenger just 0.156s adrift of the Dutch driver.
Hamilton had set the fastest first and second sector on his flying soft lap but a sub-par run to the line left him third, ahead of Sergio Perez who is in need of a big weekend for Red Bull.
Kevin Magnussen of Haas showed its significantly redesigned bodywork package was working nicely going fifth, within six tenths of the best time, while Albon put Williams in seventh without any announced upgrades for this race.
They sandwiched George Russell who appeared to struggle to match Hamilton through the session.
Carlos Sainz was eighth for Ferrari - complaining of his car moving around over bumps early in the session - ahead of the second Haas of Nico Hulkenberg and the first Alpine of Pierre Gasly.
Under eight-tenths split the top 10.
Daniel Ricciardo was within a tenth of team-mate Yuki Tsunoda as the AlphaTauri pair tested their upgraded floor, and Ricciardo’s pace was strong given his multi-race absence through a hand injury from which he returns this weekend. They were 13th and 14th respectively.
Both McLarens were at the centre of different incidents in the session, which was largely uneventful in that regard apart from the Papaya cars providing some jeopardy.
Early in the session Sainz came across the slow-moving Lando Norris at the rapid entry to Turn 8 which could have ended very badly indeed for the two friends off-track. Sainz managed to avoid contact.
It’s a good job McLaren hadn’t brought a new floor to Austin, as later in the session Oscar Piastri went wide at the exit of Turn 9 and did well to control the pendulum-swinging rear-end over bumpy grass and run off.
Norris was the highest placed of the McLarens in 15th with Piastri in 18th, but they skipped the soft tyre for mediums.
It was a tricky session for Aston Martin - also bringing upgrades - as Lance Stroll got five laps after a brake issue curtailed his session. Fernando Alonso was only 18th quickest but on the hard tyre.
As it’s a sprint weekend there was no time for significant long runs as around 10 laps on the hards was the best anyone had time for.