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US GP: Free Practice

An update from Free Practice for the United States Grand Prix as Max and Alex get up and running at the Circuit of the Americas.

Oh, we do love Austin. Firstly, the Circuit of the Americas works perfectly for F1.

The first sector does the glamour thing of showing F1 cars performing at their absolutely best, with a high-speed flick-flack of successive corners reminiscent of Suzuka’s Esses or Silverstone’s Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex. After this, it’s got a hairpin, then a mirror image of Hockenheim’s Stadium Section, after which there’s a surprisingly quick final corner that catches lots of drivers out. Best of all, it’s designed with a couple of good overtaking spots, where the layout of the corner doesn’t really provide a guaranteed defensive line. 

Because of these factors – and some interesting weather – we’ve never had a dull race at COTA and the race has developed a really strong following. It’s a big circuit, but happily it’s always full for the grand prix. 

For the first session of the weekend, Max and Alex had some fresh Pirelli Sport rubber to test as each car was given two sets of 2020 C4 soft compound tyres to use during both free practice sessions for the day.

After a period on the test tyres, the Bulls bolted on the current spec softs to produce their quickest times. For Free Practice One Max took P1 with a 1:34.057 from 18 laps and Alex P3 with a 1:34.316 from 23 laps.

In Free Practice Two, Max was P3 with a 1:33.547 from his 28 laps while Alex was P6 with a 1:34.434 his best time from a further 32 laps for the day. Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets with a 1:33.232. 

The final practice session of the weekend, Free Practice Three, saw Max finish P1 posting a 1:33.305 from 13 laps. Alex was P6 with a time of 1:33.983 from his 14 laps.

MAX VERSTAPPEN

First Practice Session: 1:34.057, Position: 1, Laps: 26

Second Practice Session: 1:33.457, Position: 3, Laps: 28

“Overall it’s been a positive day and the pace of the car on the short runs seems pretty good. Lewis had a tow down the back straight on his fastest lap so I think the time isn’t really representative and the gap is probably a bit smaller than it looks. We were a little bit off on the long runs and I’m not entirely happy yet but that’s something we can look at tonight. The track seems to be getting bumpier every year but luckily the bumps aren’t really in braking areas but it’s something that probably needs looking at before next year. I don’t mind bumps on a street circuit but some of these are quite severe and more like a jump so the wheels actually come off the ground. This track is also very aggressive on tyres so if we can keep them under control then it could be pretty good.” 

ALEX ALBON

First Practice Session: 1:34.316, Position: 4, Laps: 28

Second Practice Session: 1:34.234, Position: 6, Laps: 32

“I’m enjoying my first time around this track and it’s been really good fun so far. It’s quite technical and there’s a lot of track to use so you need to know where to put your car and which lines to take. There’s a lot of bumps out there but I think they look worse on TV than how they feel out on track, but our car is pretty good over them anyway. The cars do move around a bit over the bumps so it’s just about knowing how much you can get away with. The first session was pretty good and then the second one was ok but I know which direction I want to go in. My best time got deleted for track limits. My other lap was ok but I made a few mistakes so there’s room for improvement on my side in terms of driving and also getting the most out of the tyres. I think it’s mainly sector one and the low speed I need to focus on but after your first day at a new track, having things to work on is nothing unusual.”