Lewis Hamilton set a new Formula 1 track record around the Austin circuit in second free practice for the United States Grand Prix, while Sebastian Vettel ended up in the gravel and then the garage near the end of the session.
Hamilton turned in the eventual fastest lap midway through the session, blitzing the timesheets with the fastest lap ever recorded by an F1 car at the Circuit of The Americas in its six years as a world championship venue.
Title rival Vettel suffered a nightmare session, compromising his preparations for the rest of the weekend. He spun at high speed entering the penultimate turn of the lap early on, the rear kicking out and sending him flying into the gravel trap on the outside of the corner. He pit immediately afterwards, with extensive damage to his tyres, and returned to the track after the residual gravel was cleared out of his Ferrari.
He would go on to set the third quickest time, but with a little over fifteen minutes remaining, was forced to pit once more, complaining the front axle “felt like jelly”. Between the two stoppages, he would complete only nine laps, far less than the rest of the field.
Haas also had a challenging session, struggling with an issue with the bargeboard brackets that left both cars destabilised and caused spins in quick succession for both their drivers.
Romain Grosjean was the first to pirouette at low speed through the hairpin at the back of the circuit, while Kevin Magnussen shot off at high speed in a similar manner to Vettel’s incident later in the session.
The pair then encountered each other shortly after in the opening turns of sector three, Magnussen complaining about his team-mate over the radio and forcing his way down the inside of Grosjean at Turn 15, a move the Frenchman sarcastically referred to as “supremely intelligent”.
Max Verstappen had a trouble-free session to go second quickest, while Valtteri Bottas could only get within six tenths of team-mate Hamilton to go fourth fastest.
Fernando Alonso impressed in second practice, securing best-of-the-rest status by going seventh quickest early in the session and staying there for the duration.
Along with Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg suffered from limited running, consigned to lengthy spell in the garage midway through the session while Renault went to work on a minor engine problem blighting his new ride for this weekend. Conversely, Brendon Hartley racked up the most laps as he continued to acclimatise to his new surroundings, clocking 40 laps.
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