Max Verstappen feels the gap between himself and Lewis Hamilton in Friday’s afternoon session is closer than the lap times suggest, with the Dutchman not getting the benefit of a tow down the long back straight that the Mercedes AMG Motorsport driver did.
The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing driver ended the morning session at the Circuit of the Americas with the quickest time, but he was unable to better third in the afternoon, falling behind Hamilton and Scuderia Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
“Overall it’s been a positive day and the pace of the car on the short runs seems pretty good,” said Verstappen. “Lewis had a tow down the back straight on his fastest lap so I think the time isn’t really representative and the gap is probably a bit smaller than it looks.
“We were a little bit off on the long runs and I’m not entirely happy yet but that’s something we can look at tonight.”
Whilst Verstappen feels happy that the extreme bumps around the Circuit of the Americas are not in the braking zones, he would like them to be sorted out in time for the 2020 race at the circuit. He admits he doesn’t mind bumps on street circuits but not on purpose built race tracks.
“The track seems to be getting bumpier every year but luckily the bumps aren’t really in braking areas but it’s something that probably needs looking at before next year,” said the Dutchman. “I don’t mind bumps on a street circuit but some of these are quite severe and more like a jump so the wheels actually come off the ground.
“This track is also very aggressive on tyres so if we can keep them under control then it could be pretty good.”
For team-mate Alexander Albon, it is the Thai drivers’ first time at the Circuit of the Americas, and he admits it took some time to work out where to place the car, with the track extremely wide in places. He also says the RB15 appears to be working well over the bumps on the track, which look worse on television than they do behind the wheel.
“I’m enjoying my first time around this track and it’s been really good fun so far,” said Albon. “It’s quite technical and there’s a lot of track to use so you need to know where to put your car and which lines to take.
“There’s a lot of bumps out there but I think they look worse on TV than how they feel out on track, but our car is pretty good over them anyway. The cars do move around a bit over the bumps so it’s just about knowing how much you can get away with.”
Albon ended the morning session fourth fastest but like his team-mate he slipped two places in the afternoon, although this was partly down to him having his best time deleted for exceeding track limits. He feels positive that he can have a strong weekend in the United States, providing he can avoid making any mistakes.
“The first session was pretty good and then the second one was ok, but I know which direction I want to go in,” said Albon. “My best time got deleted for track limits. My other lap was ok but I made a few mistakes so there’s room for improvement on my side in terms of driving and also getting the most out of the tyres.
“I think it’s mainly sector one and the low speed I need to focus on but after your first day at a new track, having things to work on is nothing unusual.”