Sainz, Ferrari start fast in USGP practice

Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images

Sainz, Ferrari start fast in USGP practice

Formula 1

Sainz, Ferrari start fast in USGP practice

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Carlos Sainz bested Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton for the top spot in first practice for the United States Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas.

The Ferrari driver was the first among the front-runners to set a time on the soft tire and immediately rocketed to top spot with a 1m36.857s in warm and blustery conditions, with the ambient temperature 86 degrees F and the circuit peaking at 104 degrees F.

Hamilton responded for Mercedes in his upgraded W13, but the Briton was almost half a second off the pace, slipping to 0.475s adrift of the benchmark.

Verstappen was the last among them to use a new set of softs, with a purple middle sector enough to put the Dutchman 0.224s off the pace, albeit complaining that he lacked front-end load through the low-speed corners.

Lance Stroll was a surprise fourth for a competitive Aston Martin. The team forecast that its car would suit the Austin circuit, and the Canadian wasn’t just 0.6s off Sainz’s time but 0.053s quicker than Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull Racing car, who was using a new internal combustion engine that will attract a five-place grid penalty on Sunday.

Fernando Alonso was sixth and a further 0.2s back in his Alpine, which was equipped with its final upgrade of the season. George Russell’s Mercedes was a further 0.1s off in seventh.

Pierre Gasly was eighth for AlphaTauri ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris in ninth and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel completing the top 10 with a session-high 25 laps.

Esteban Ocon was 0.4s slower than Alpine teammate Alonso in 11th but headed Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu — who will also serve a five-place penalty for a new combustion engine — and Williams driver Alex Albon.

Yuki Tsunoda was 14th ahead of Mick Schumacher as the slowest of the full-time drivers.

The five stand-in drivers occupied the bottom places on the time sheet, four of whom are F1 rookies.

Robert Schwartzman, racing with an Israeli license, put Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari 16th at a little more than 2s slower than Sainz. The 2021 IndyCar Series champion, Alex Palou, followed in 17th with Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren at 3s adrift. Theo Pourchaire, currently second in the Formula 2 standings, was 3.3s off the pace in 18th.

Logan Sargeant became the first American to take part in an official F1 session since Alex Rossi in 2015. The Williams junior took Nicholas Latifi’s car to 19th at 3.4s off the pace in what’s being considered as a lead-in to a full-time drive for the team in 2023.

Antonio Giovinazzi was last in Kevin Magnussen’s Haas after crashing his car. The Italian completed just four laps before spinning backwards exiting Turn 6 and slapping the barrier, causing a brief red flag. He was able to limp back to the pits but took no further part in the session, the team citing an overheating clutch and a possible need to change the gearbox.

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