Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Circuit of the Americas, 2019

Mercedes’ long runs suggest a repeat of Mexico is on the cards

2019 United States Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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When F1 first raced at the Circuit of the Americas seven years ago, its surface was smooth and lacking in grip. Times have changed.

It’s now bumpy. Very bumpy. Possibly too bumpy, though it’s likely there isn’t much they can do about that before Sunday’s race.

It’s also become rather more abrasive. That, plus its high-speed corners which current F1 cars are capable of tackling at quicker speeds than they could seven years ago, will dish out severe punishment to the tyres.

Of the three top teams, Mercedes seemed to be in the best shape over a long run in second practice. They set the pace over a single lap as well, thought Lewis Hamilton had the benefit of a tow, and of late Ferrari have tended to unleash quite a bit more power on Saturdays.

That points to the probability of another Ferrari pole position, or front-row lock-out. But Mercedes could be quite a bit quicker in the race – Charles Leclerc admitted he couldn’t match Hamilton’s stint pace during second practice.

In which case, we could be on for a repeat of Mexico, with the faster silver cars fighting to get out from behind the red ones. The Red Bulls appear to be right in the thick of it as well.

The midfield battle has taken an interesting twist. McLaren, who a few races ago had established themselves as consistently the fourth-best team, came away from Mexico point-less and didn’t hit the ground running on Friday in Austin.

Pierre Gasly, Toro Rosso, Circuit of the Americas, 2019
Toro Rosso’s form has impressed Sainz
“It’s going to be a very challenging weekend for us at McLaren because we see that in this track we are not as competitive maybe as we were in Mexico in qualifying,” admitted Carlos Sainz Jnr. “So it’s going to take a lot of progress through the weekend to try and make it to [seventh and eighth] on the starting grid.”

Sainz admitted he’s been surprised by the form of Toro Rosso recently, who ran very well in Mexico. With Sergio Perez condemned to starting from the back, Racing Point’s challenge appears blunted, unless Lance Stroll can get it together in qualifying.

That would be good news for Renault, who look unlikely to wrest fourth place in the constructors’ championship from McLaren, and whose fifth place has looked increasingly under threat.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’35.4391’33.23266
2Charles LeclercFerrari1’35.3801’33.53356
3Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’34.0571’33.54754
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’34.2261’33.89065
5Valtteri BottasMercedes1’36.1591’34.04574
6Alexander AlbonRed Bull-Honda1’34.3161’34.43460
7Pierre GaslyToro Rosso-Honda1’35.0081’34.50963
8Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’35.7231’34.66760
9Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’35.5861’34.74460
10Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.0371’34.83955
11Daniel RicciardoRenault1’35.2631’34.92458
12Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’35.6611’34.97567
13Nico HulkenbergRenault1’36.1241’34.98856
14Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’36.2631’35.02553
15Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’35.9711’35.10955
16Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’35.3561’35.78928
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.8541’35.38756
18Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’35.6591’35.44251
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’36.74937
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’37.9481’37.28361
21Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’41.1127

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2019 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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10 comments on “Mercedes’ long runs suggest a repeat of Mexico is on the cards”

  1. Completely different scenario from Mexico, in my opinion.

    More overtake possibilities at Austin, specially at the wide turn 1. Passing shouldn’t be the problem. Tyre choice may play the role there, along with being comfortable or not with the bumps.

    1. +1 I think this will prove a tough race for Ferrari even if they get poll. I expect Leclerc will do better of the two, in fact one of those circuits where Vettel’s 180 degree spin issues tends to surface, as we saw in practice too. Red Bull could be really strong though.

      One of my favourite circuits, tests the drivers, the esses are fantastic, so too the climbs and sweeping dips, some good overtaking chances, and less of the tedium of SCs and waiting for lap after lap for cars and debris to be cleared up. Usually fairly even chances for the leading teams too.

      1. @david-br
        I’m not so sure about that. Even last year Lewis found it very difficult to pass Kimi in the first stint, despite the Mercedes being on the more durable tyres.
        If anything, it should be worse this year.
        The tyres will suffer in the dirty air, especially in S1.

        If Lewis gets pole or gets ahead at the start, he will disappear into the distance.
        If not, we’re in for a pretty interesting race.

        1. @srga91 Maybe, I thought Lewis was ultra-cautious last year as he needed a bunch of championship points still (the US and Mexico having been switched round). It really depends on tyre strategy, like you say, and whether the teams all play safe or mix them up. But the past few races have seen some tyre gambles with different numbers of pit stops, so I’m hopeful we’ll see a decent amount of ‘race confusion’ and uncertainty. I just love the esses at the top of the circuit, where they catch the wind too, it means there’s a lot of chances for mistakes in handling, as Rosberg found out, so too some of the other corners. With the bumps and attrition, it should be even trickier.

          1. @david-br
            I hope so too :)
            Tyre strategy will definitely play a big role on Sunday (Soft-Hard, Medium-Hard, Soft-Medium or even 2 stops, you never know.)
            Temperatures can have a big impact as well. It was pretty cold on Friday, which could have caused graining on some tyres and which could disappear again come Sunday (just an asumption).

            I’m also curious about the big bump in T9, which caused some problems yesterday, as it was right on the racing line (Leclerc had to shortshift there and you could hear it very clearly from his onboard).
            I wonder how this will affect the racing there.

          2. Will Red Bull finally be able to make good use of that new Honda PU? So far in Japan and Mexico they couldn’t.

            If Max survives firts lap he may disrupt any strategies Merc and Ferrari may be planning against each other.

            And than the race is on!

  2. Hm, though Mercedes has more often been gaining less/losing a bit from last year compared to Ferrari, I highly doubt either they or indeed Ferrari lost one and a half seconds more than Red Bull, so I expect those two teams to gain at least a second, maybe two, today.

  3. Just like in Silverstone this year COTA is bumpy. MotoGP riders werent too happy with bumps when they raced earlier this year at COTA and was even termed dangerous and not at level for racing MotoGP.

  4. So why don’t they tune the suspension to manage the bumps better?

Comments are closed.