Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Circuit of the Americas, 2023

Verstappen heads Leclerc and Hamilton in sole practice session at COTA

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen was the quickest driver in the sole practice session for the United States Grand Prix ahead of Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton.

The world champion’s best time of a 1’35.912 was a tenth of a second faster than Leclerc’s Ferrari with Hamilton almost three tenths behind as neither McLaren driver featured in the top ten.

Conditions could not have been better for drivers for the single hour of practice afforded to them for the weekend, with clear blue skies allowing the sun to heat the track to nearly 40 degrees by the time the session began. After missing the last five rounds after breaking his hand in Zandvoort, Daniel Ricciardo returned to the cockpit of the AlphaTauri for his first outing in the AT04 for almost two months.

Teams opted for a mix of medium and hard compound tyres for the early laps as they got to grips with the green and bumpy asphalt around the Austin circuit. Newly re-crowned world champion Verstappen set the early pace with a 1’39.736 on the hard tyres, but soon took more than two seconds out of that time with a 1’37.687.

Lewis Hamilton admitted to a mistake on his first push lap, but it was still enough to put him second behind the Red Bull driver. Verstappen promptly improved to a 1’37.498, before Hamilton closed to within 0.044s of the Red Bull – also on the hard tyres.

Naturally, the track was very busy given the limited time to prepare car set-ups. Traffic was as much a concern as ever, demonstrated when Carlos Sainz Jnr had to avoid Lando Norris at turn six as the pair both appeared to turn into the apex while Sainz attempted to pass the McLaren on a push lap

Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll were both frustrated by apparent identical problems with their left-front brakes. Both drivers were pulled into the garage for extensive work on their cars while the rest of the field continued to pile up the miles. Alonso was eventually released back to the track with just under 30 minutes remaining, but Stroll was left stranded in the garage.

Hamilton moved to the top of the times with a 1’37.394 to go a tenth of a second quicker than Verstappen before the majority of the field bailed into the pit lane to change tyres and settings. After the field eventually reemerged, Oscar Piastri almost lost control of his McLaren after running wide and off the track at the exit of turn nine, having to fight to keep his car pointing the right way over the grass.

Piastri’s team mate Norris rejoined the track on the same set of medium tyres he had previously run on and posted a new fastest lap of the session with a 1’37.256, 0.138s ahead of Hamilton’s prior benchmark.

In the final 15 minutes, teams began to fit the soft compound to their cars. Alexander Albon used the fastest rubber to jump straight to the very top of the times with a 1’36.535, before Verstappen reclaimed the quickest time with a 1’35.912, half a second quicker than the Williams.

Leclerc’s effort on the soft tyres put his Ferrari into second place, a tenth-and-a-half behind the world champion, with Hamilton moving up to third, just ahead of Sergio Perez. Those positions held up to the chequered flag at the end of the hour, with Verstappen sitting atop the order ahead of Leclerc, Hamilton and Perez in fourth.

Kevin Magnussen put his updated Haas in fifth ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes. Albon was seventh ahead of Sainz in eighth, with Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly completing the top ten. The McLarens of Norris and Piastri ended the session in 15th and 19th, respectively, with Stroll never getting back onto the track after his early braking problems.

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2023 United States Grand Prix first practice result

P. # Driver Team Model Time Gap Laps
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB19 1’35.912 22
2 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1’36.068 0.156 24
3 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1’36.193 0.281 22
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB19 1’36.212 0.300 23
5 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’36.472 0.560 21
6 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 1’36.474 0.562 24
7 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’36.492 0.580 20
8 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-23 1’36.533 0.621 23
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’36.702 0.790 21
10 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A523 1’36.705 0.793 21
11 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’36.987 1.075 25
12 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A523 1’37.066 1.154 21
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT AT04 1’37.104 1.192 25
14 3 Daniel Ricciardo AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT AT04 1’37.152 1.240 24
15 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’37.256 1.344 21
16 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’37.418 1.506 24
17 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’37.517 1.605 24
18 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’37.840 1.928 19
19 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’38.420 2.508 22
20 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’39.940 4.028 5

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2023 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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19 comments on “Verstappen heads Leclerc and Hamilton in sole practice session at COTA”

  1. I expect a Q1 elimination for Stroll after such limited running.

    1. I also think we can expect Lewis to get pole later today. That update seems to be working well.

      Also, expect Checo not going to Q3 due to track limits..

    2. With Aston’s updates not looking particularly great and some others looking a good deal faster than usual, Alonso might lose his status as the only driver to make Q3 in every quali so far. Stroll missing out on yet another practice session w/a brand new update is really bad news for him and the team.

      I think Haas might actually be a genuine contender for a quali spot somewhere between 6-10.

    3. This seems actually a fairly obvious prediction!

  2. New floor seem to have some impact!

  3. My prediction: 1.Lando 2.Max 3.Lewis 4.Charles
    That would result in an awesome start on Sunday!

    1. I’m going with 1. Checo 2. Stroll 3. Lewis 4. Sargeant

      Alternate: 1. Hamilton 2. Max 3. Checo

      1. Ory (@the-orycle-26)
        20th October 2023, 20:40

        Alternate 😉

        1. Stroll may not be third, but I guarantee you he makes the top 20.

          1. Stroll may not be third, but I guarantee you he makes the top 20.

            Careful. With a timely use of his recently demonstrated talent for total wipe-out crashing, you might be wrong about that.

          2. That’s indeed a dangerous prediction with his recent form!

  4. There are some bigger gaps between teammates than usual aren’t there, this track seems to take a bit of driving, as Ant was saying, it’s not just the car

    1. Limited running as 1 practice. I’d put team mate gaps down to very different set ups and set ups will converge for quali after they run through the data.

  5. Is there a limit on the number of mechanics that can work on each car when it’s being fixed? I wonder if Aston put all the eggs in one basket trying to fix Fernando’s car to give him time instead of working on both cars at the same time.

    1. Just how many you brung. Frankly, there’s not enough space to work on the front corners to be short on mechanics.

  6. Mercedes updates looks good. Could make for some great races the rest of this season and a lot of hope for the next. Of course it’s only practice, but one can hope…

  7. It’s painful watching Lance Stroll race in and race out. Surely his dad has to realize his potential is maxed out where it is now!

    Please Aston Martin, replace Lance with a better driver for 2024!

    1. He’s not even hitting his potential, he did other seasons, but that’s the potential of a midfield driver, who would do worse than 2022 perez in a red bull.

    2. As in he’s not driving the best he’s ever driven this season.

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