A round-up of the opening day’s action from the 2016 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin.
Given that there was so little running last year because of the rain, Mercedes split their tyre strategy in FP2, with Hamilton focusing on mediums initially, and Rosberg on the softs before both switched to the supersofts. They were quick, but Red Bull look a threat on both single-lap and long-run pace right now.
Nico Rosberg: “The running of the car was different between P1 and P2 because of the temperature; it was very cold when we ran this morning. The weather also had a bearing on the balance of the car as it altered as a consequence of the changing wind direction around the track. It should be different tomorrow because the weather is going to change again, as it does frequently here in Austin, and it means what we learn today might not necessarily help us for Saturday.”
Lewis Hamilton: “This circuit remains special for me as I won my third World Championship here last year. It’s great to see so many fans enjoying F1 in the US and coming out to show their support. On track it’s been a great day for reliability and getting our programme done. Given the wet weather conditions here last year and the lack of reference points for each tyre compound Nico and I had to cover as much ground as possible to help with our understanding. We’ve still got to go away and analyse the data overnight to make sure we’re ready for P3 and qualifying tomorrow.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical): “It’s great to be back in Austin with some fantastic sunny weather. It’s been a good day and we’ve managed to get through our programme without any issues. We’ve taken a look at all three tyres during the course of the day and tried to close off as many open questions as possible as there are still a lot of options on the qualifying and race strategy. During the afternoon session long runs Lewis tried the medium compound tyre whilst Nico explored the soft and both ran the super soft tyre. We’ve lots of work to do tonight still and it looks like it could be pretty close between the three top teams. We need to get everything right if we’re going to have a good weekend.”
Button lost a little time in FP1 with an engine problem which was cured by a change of sensor, but otherwise McLaren had a very good day. They worked progressively to hone the set-up as the conditions changed and earned strong top 10 positions as a result in FP2.
Fernando Alonso: “It was a good day in the office. We completed our programme and were able to put a good number of laps under our belt, which was very helpful.
“In the second session we also tried the different compounds and we will need to choose carefully, because the Supersoft seems to have quite a lot of degradation, as we expected. We’ll make our decision once we have gone through all the data we gathered today.
“We tested several items, aero parts and mechanical settings, and some things went better in FP1 and some in FP2, so we have some work ahead of us to be ready for tomorrow.”
Jenson Button: “Today wasn’t too bad. I really enjoy driving around here but there’s definitely still some more work to do. This track is always tough on tyres as there’s high degradation, but it’s the same for all of us, so I think we’ll be okay.
“The mid- and high-speed corners are always a challenge for us and the long Turn 17 is tough, especially on tyre wear. A few cars have been hitting the orange kerb in Turns Three, Four and Five, and it’s been breaking off parts of the floor, but luckily we haven’t had any issues on our car.
“When we bring a Supersoft compound to a circuit where we’re not used to running it, there’s degradation, but it’s pretty normal and we haven’t found it too bad. There’s degradation on all the compounds – even the Medium tyre overheats pretty quickly and isn’t as consistent as you would like it – so this circuit is definitely tough on tyres, but that’s part of what makes it interesting.”
Eric Boullier, McLaren-Honda Racing Director: “Today we ran through all our planned programmes efficiently and successfully, emerging at the end of the FP2 an encouraging eighth- and ninth-fastest.
“The track temperature was surprisingly low for FP1 this morning, but it had warmed considerably for FP2 this afternoon. That, and the set-up work we’d done between the sessions, led to both drivers reporting good handling balance by the time they’d completed their high-fuel runs at the end of the day.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer: “Today’s free practice ran smoothly, with the team performing many aero and mechanical tests and engine mode confirmations fitting to the circuit. At the end of FP1, one of the sensors on Jenson’s engine dropped, but it did not affect the run plan, and was a simple fix of parts to prepare for FP2.
“In the afternoon sun, the track conditions became more ideal for longer runs and tyre testing, so both sessions were very busy today. We haven’t found the perfect balance in the package yet, but we were able to gather tons of data to analyse and prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying.”