Mercedes almost a second ahead in first practice as Alonso hits trouble

2021 United States Grand Prix first practice

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Valtteri Bottas led a Mercedes one-two in first practice for the United States Grand Prix, less than five-hundredths of a second ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton.

The only driver who was able to get within a second of the flying W12s was Max Verstappen. The next-closest car, Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari, was almost one-and-a-half seconds slower.

Fernando Alonso missed much of the session as he stopped early on when Alpine noticed a potential problem with his car. He returned to action with just over a quarter of the one-hour session remaining.

Alonso’s stop in the run-off of turn 12, was in the first moments of the session and before any drivers had set a lap time. It was described as “precautionary” by Alpine but led to an early red flag period before the session restarted with just under 50 minutes to go.

Hamilton led much of the session, setting an early fastest lap and only briefly beaten by Sergio Perez at the mid-point of the hour. Bottas in the other Mercedes set the fastest lap of all just ahead of the final 10 minutes, sealing an emphatic one-two for the world champions.

At the midway point in the session Verstappen briefly took the fastest lap with Hamilton. But otherwise it was Mercedes ahead all the way. Perez’s one fast lap was sandwiched by hard tyre runs which disguised any late-session pace he might have found.

Ferrari were competitive all session, with Charles Leclerc sometimes ahead of Bottas, especially during his and Sainz’s initial runs – which were on medium tyres, while other drivers mostly opted for the soft compound. Leclerc also found time for a quick spin in the high-speed corners at the beginning of the lap.

Lando Norris was been able to match or even beat the Red Bull and Ferrari cars during the early part of the session but had a serious lock-up which flat-spotted a set of soft tyres beyond use. He didn’t return to the track after that, only running 11 laps in total.

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest lap at one point but ran wide at turn nine and the time was deleted. Vettel said the rear-end handling of his car felt difficult into the corner.

Sergio Perez made similar comments and took a very wide line at the same corner. He the red and white kerb sharply on one lap, going over some of COTA’s bumps which gave his Red Bull a violent shake.

Both Haas drivers also had problems at turn 12. Nikita Mazepin ran wide on his own and managed to avoid the barriers while Mick Schumacher was sent over the paint after bashing wheels with Perez in a bizarre, late-session clash which seemed to leave neither with significant damage.

2021 United States Grand Prix first practice result

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
177Valtteri BottasMercedes1’34.87417
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’34.9190.04518
333Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’35.8060.93216
416Charles LeclercFerrari1’36.3341.46018
555Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’36.5081.63420
610Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri-Honda1’36.6111.73718
711Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda1’36.7981.92420
84Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’36.8551.98111
999Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.8742.00018
107Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.8762.00218
1163George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’36.9662.09219
1231Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’36.9702.09622
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.9722.09820
145Sebastian VettelAston Martin-Mercedes1’36.9822.10820
1514Fernando AlonsoAlpine-Renault1’37.0682.19412
163Daniel RicciardoMcLaren-Mercedes1’37.4582.58418
176Nicholas LatifiWilliams-Mercedes1’37.4632.58919
1822Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda1’37.9543.08022
1947Mick SchumacherHaas-Ferrari1’38.8663.99217
209Nikita MazepinHaas-Ferrari1’42.2397.36519

First practice visual gaps

Valtteri Bottas – 1’34.874

+0.045 Lewis Hamilton – 1’34.919

+0.932 Max Verstappen – 1’35.806

+1.460 Charles Leclerc – 1’36.334

+1.634 Carlos Sainz Jnr – 1’36.508

+1.737 Pierre Gasly – 1’36.611

+1.924 Sergio Perez – 1’36.798

+1.981 Lando Norris – 1’36.855

+2.000 Antonio Giovinazzi – 1’36.874

+2.002 Kimi Raikkonen – 1’36.876

+2.092 George Russell – 1’36.966

+2.096 Esteban Ocon – 1’36.970

+2.098 Lance Stroll – 1’36.972

+2.108 Sebastian Vettel – 1’36.982

+2.194 Fernando Alonso – 1’37.068

+2.584 Daniel Ricciardo – 1’37.458

+2.589 Nicholas Latifi – 1’37.463

+3.080 Yuki Tsunoda – 1’37.954

+3.992 Mick Schumacher – 1’38.866

+7.365 Nikita Mazepin – 1’42.239

Drivers more then ten seconds off the pace omitted.

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a freelance journalist who roams the paddocks of Formula E, covering the technical and emotional elements of electric racing. Usually found at...

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34 comments on “Mercedes almost a second ahead in first practice as Alonso hits trouble”

  1. It appears RB are improving their sandbagging abilities.

    1. so true. You know they’re quick when they try to disguise their pace. Perez was faster on the hard tyres at the same time as Hamilton on softs. Let’s wait and see, but I’m still expecting an easy Verstappen pole and win.

      1. Me too, if he doesn’t get pole and the win that RB, he’s clearly underperforming. Let’s see.

        1. *in that RB

        2. @theswift I guess Hamilton has been underperforming almost every weekend by your logic.

    2. you are so delusional , man
      almost 1 sec gap
      i am a max fan , but this is too much to overcome

  2. It appears Merc hides its embarrassment well that they haven’t built a gap in the WDC standings despite having the dominant car for the 8th race in a row.

    1. 8th race in a row? That made me chuckle, thanks :-)

      1. @theswift yeah i loled too, its 12 races in a row

        1. You guys are hurting, huh?

          1. I think that no one is more blind than a “fan”. That’s why I only hope I’ll never become one, except a fan of racing.

          2. Yeah… fandom does make people say some fairly ridiculous things.

    2. Grasping at the straws, eh?

  3. The old order is restored. Mercedes 1 & 2 by almost a second. How they did it is a mystery to me (by making their engineering more “reliable”?). If this continues the rest of the season will be predictable – and thus boring. A shame really.

    1. Tell me. Was it also boring when RBR won back to back from Monaco to Austria? Or is it only boring when Mercs show some pace in FP1?

      1. +1, anything but Merc and they’re happy. Dominance hurts.

        1. indeed, isnt it amazing that most people actually dont like boring and predictable seasons where mercedes wins nearly all the races? Truly shocking.

        2. @theswift And the only reason you’re not complaining is that it favours your favourite driver. Monaco to Austria was nowhere near as boring because you are comparing 5 races to 7 years. How that is so difficult to comprehend is beyond me.

          1. I mean I’m really not sure how you can equate Red Bull being a little dominant for like seven races compared to Mercedes being VERY dominant for the best part of SEVEN YEARS.

      2. The RB dominance was hardly there. How many 1-2s did they have this season?

        Merc dropped the ball which made RB look good.
        Take Monaco: Mind you, Bottas only qualified 0.1s behind Max.
        Surely a goat should have been able to outqualify a mediocre teammate by 0.15s and hence start pole at Monaco? But He couldn’t set up his car that weekend…

  4. Championship is done, its back to 2014 level of difference.

  5. Well, this is exceptionally disappointing. Yawn.

  6. The highlight of FP1 for me was when Horner made a complete tool of himself when talking to Jenson Button…

    1. What’s new? It was quite hilarious though.

    2. It was cringe-worthy, the way he was, falsely, insisting that JB “dusted” LH in COTA 2012. But I understand the selective memory loss. It wasn’t a pleasant day for RBR, as Lewis slowly reeled SV in and overtook him on track for the win.

  7. Crazy speed from MERC. Maybe running the engine at full power is making the reliabilty suffer as a result and tey are going to take care of that with engine penalties.

    1. Yep , looks like it. Taking a new engine every 3 races seems a smart thing.

  8. MB hasn’t had a first and second place finish since the Emilia Romagna GP last November. So much for dominance. Maybe this weekend they’ll do it again.

  9. Barry Bens (@barryfromdownunder)
    22nd October 2021, 20:21

    And yet Merc-fans will still claim Red Bull have the fastest car.

    The talk on Sky regarding the shady fiddling Mercedes is doing with their engine is pretty interesting though. No surprise, as one doesn’t find a legitimate 15 km/h mid-season, bu hey: Mercedes needs to pull out all the stops even the cheatsy ones, so I guess that’s good.

    1. If my memory is correct the talk on Sky was about an aero upgrade since Silverstone? Jenson talked about getting a 15km/h boost would have to be aero as getting that much speed only from the engine, taking into account drag squares with speed would need a 80 BHP increase.

  10. I’m here for all the salty comments from the Dutch! 😭

  11. Apparently the gap is probably because of the ‘active suspension’ Mercedes is using according to Paul di Resta on Sky.

  12. Reading these comments after qualy makes for a lot of laughter!

Comments are closed.