Charles Leclerc topped an unrepresentative second practice session at the United States Grand Prix ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo.
The extended 90-minute practice session was entirely co-opted by Pirelli for an in-season tire test given the dearth of opportunities for private testing during the packed 23-race season, making the times close to opaque for comparison purposes for this weekend’s race.
However, any driver who was replaced by a reserve or rookie driver in FP1 was exempt for the first 30 minutes to undertake regular set-up work, which meant Leclerc, Bottas and Ricciardo were eligible to run regular tires before switching to tire testing.
Kevin Magnussen and Nicholas Latifi were also eligible to use 2022-spec tires but didn’t avail themselves of the opportunity.
Leclerc easily topped the session with a best time of 1m36.810s, faster than teammate Carlos Sainz’s best effort from FP1 despite the Monegasque using the medium compound on his quickest lap. Bottas and Ricciardo followed on softs at 0.7s and 0.8s off the pace respectively.
All three then switched to their enforced testing programs.
Each driver was given two sets of unmarked 2023 prototype tires and had to complete a preset run plan by Pirelli, including how much fuel they were to load for each stint. The plans were designed to mimic the run plans normally seen during second practice sessions given teams tend to undertake both race and qualifying simulations on Friday afternoons.
Neither the teams nor the drivers knew which of the two experimental compounds they were using at any time.
One of the sport’s sole tire supplier’s main aims for 2023 is to create grippier front tires to try to counteract the current generation of car’s tendency to understeer, thereby better facilitating a neutral balance.
It’s also targeting an improved C1 compound, the hardest in the five-compound range, to bring it closer to the C2 in performance.
Carlos Sainz was 1.4s off the pace as the quickest driver on the Pirelli-exclusive plan, finishing ahead of Mick Schumacher, Lando Norris, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Pierre Gasly and Sergio Perez.
Kevin Magnussen lost some track time to “something loose” around the pedals but was able to rejoin to finish the session 11th ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, George Russell and Zhou Guanyu.
Lance Stroll followed in 15th ahead of Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso, Alex Albon, Sebastian Vettel and Nicholas Latifi.
Teams still have one final hour of practice in FP3 at 3 p.m. ET Saturday — the same time as the race on Sunday — to undertake their regular Friday evaluation work on 2022-spec tires.