Honours Even on Friday
Lewis Hamilton is 33 points behind his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg as the F1 circus heads to the USA. He really has to start closing that gap and the practice sessions on Friday showed him to be in determined mood.
He was 0.315 seconds faster than the German in first practice with Max Verstappen back in third and Kimi Raikkonen in fourth. Hamilton had been consistently faster than his team mate throughout the first practice session.
Tyres were important to consider though with Verstappen’s fastest lap on mediums while the Mercedes times were set on soft. They are about a second a lap faster but still good news for Mercedes as the Red Bull driver was still two seconds of their times.
Further down the field were Nico Hulkenburg in fifth and Valterri Botta in sixth. Daniel Ricciardo was down in seventh (0.6 seconds behind the other Red Bull). Sebastian Vettel was back in eighth.
The debuting Jordan King was 19th fastest using the soft tyre just one place behind Jenson Button in his McLaren, whose team mate Fernando Alonso finished 13th,
Hamilton may have dominated the first practice session but it was Rosberg who had the advantage later in the day. He was fastest in second practice with Hamilton back in third. It was a much better practice session for Daniel Ricciardo who finished in second.
The defending world champion was 0.292 seconds behind Rosberg but had been faster than him in the early part of the second practice session. His qualifying simulation on the super-soft tyre was his undoing though
Sebastian Vettel was fourth fastest with Verstappen fifth followed by the Force Indias of Hulkenberg and Perez. It was a better session for McLaren with Button in eighth and Alonso ninth. Tenth placed was filled by Kimi Raikkonen who was down the field after making a mistake on his flying lap. He wasn’t too popular back in the paddock as both Alonso and Kvyat felt he obstructed them.
It’s an awkward situation for Hamilton. He could win all four remaining races but if the Mercedes dominance continues it may not win him the title. All Rosberg has to do is get four second-place finishes behind his team mate and he’ll still win his first world title.
First though, Lewis has to make sure he can get the wins that will leave him with a chance of retaining his title. Qualifying on Saturday evening is going to be key for him, though his start in the actual race may again be a deciding factor. I’ll be back later with a report on how qualifying goes, till then enjoy your racing.