Rookies, crashes, and plenty of sun – here’s a rundown of USGP day one
Though Max Verstappen won the World Championship at Suzuka Circuit just two weeks ago, the competition is not over. While the drivers have their champion, each has a responsibility to perform their best to win points for their team for the Constructors Cup. Red Bull strengthened their lead over Ferrari at Suzuka who in turn widened the gap ahead of Mercedes. Still in debate: Whether Lewis Hamilton, driver for Mercedes of nine years and a global household name, will have as much luck at COTA as he has in the past. So far, Hamilton has won five of the past nine USGPs.
Today, the first day of the 10th United States Grand Prix here at COTA, the track saw two practice sessions for F1 and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of guests from all over the world. Worthy of note was Theo Pourchaire, the French F2 driver part of the Sauber Academy, who drove for Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in today’s first practice. Currently ranked second in F2 standings, Alfa Romeo confirmed Pourchaire as a 2023 reserve driver. IndyCar driver Alex Patou drove in place of Daniel Ricciardo for McLaren’s FP1, as well. American F2 driver Logan Sargeant drove Latifi’s FP1 for Williams, marking the first American in an F1 session since 2015. Former Alfa Romeo driver and current Ferrari reserve, Antonio Giovinazzi took a seat for Haas’ FP1. Finally, Ferrari’s test driver, Israeli Robert Shwartzman took to the track for Ferrari’s FP1 and their first of two rookie sessions this season.
Free practice one started with drama when Antonio Giovinazzi took his Haas into the wall out of Turn 6. He was able to continue after being stuck for about a minute and brought it back to the pits. Kevin Magnussen, who Giovinazzi was driving in place of, is on his last gearbox of the season. If Haas replaces it, he’ll start at the back of the grid on Sunday.
Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) briefly held the fastest lap of FP1 before Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari) took pole for the rest of the session. Top 10 of FP1 was as follows: Sainz (Ferrari), Verstappen (Red Bull), Hamilton (Mercedes), Stroll (Aston Martin), Perez (Red Bull), Alonzo (Alpine), Russell (Mercedes), Gasly (Alpha Tauri), Norris (McLaren), and Vettel (Aston Martin).
All drivers starting Sunday were out on the track for free practice two sporting Formula One’s 2023 tires.
During P2, Lando Norris almost put his McLaren into the wall off Turn 20 as he came into the pits, demonstrating the noticeable difference in 2023 tire handling. Meanwhile, Charles Leclerc held a comfortable lead for the duration of P2, giving himself a solid shot at qualifying in pole position tomorrow. Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, finished P2 having already missed the first few laps. Now that the teams have learned from two practice sessions, who’s to know what will be of P3 and qualifying in 24 hours.
After today’s performance, it is clear the cowboy boots gifted from COTA to the drivers have really put a ‘pep in the step’ of Ferrari’s drivers. But do they have what it takes to claim the lead in the race for the Constructor’s Cup?
Forecasted to break last year’s USGP weekend attendance record, fans across the state, the country and the world showed up to celebrate. The updates to transportation, wayfinding, and entertainment met the first wave of attendees with ease and excitement. Also worthy of note: at COTA’s Sebastian Vettel retirement ceremony, 296 trees were planted around the community with 10% on COTA property to celebrate the German driver’s 296th race and honor his legacy. At the ceremony, Vettel decided to pledge 296 more with partner TreeFolks located in Austin. What a way to celebrate!
Tomorrow evening will be the Formula 1 qualifying session. Stay tuned in to COTA and F1 social media for as-it-happens updates and check back here on our blog for a more in-depth breakdown of the day after. Now, the track is headed to the Germania Insurance Super Stage to truly kick-off the weekend with a performance by international rock band Green Day!