Max Verstappen’s appetite is insatiable after his third world title in the oven in Qatar two weeks ago. In America, he tops the racing offices for the next double, setting the tone in his first and only practice session. But Ferrari and Mercedes are not far behind.
The final sprint weekend of the year is the sixth of two weeks in Brazil, meaning all ten teams have just one hour to find the right car setup and test tire life. According to Charles Leclerc, the further course of the three-day event is not only stressful but decisive work.
“Free practice is very influential for the whole weekend because you can no longer adjust the car set-up. Our priority is to start the session strong and then make the right decision about the set-up. That is, “more important than the question of whether the car fits the characteristics of a circuit”, believes Leclerc.
The general expectation is that the US circuit should match Ferrari’s SF-23. The more than five kilometers long, bumpy track near Austin’s airport has some slow corners, one of the 2023 challenger’s weak points. Ferrari have a lot to win over the next five races. It is chasing second place in the constructors’ championship, good for extra millions from Formula 1’s prize pool, still held by Mercedes. The racing team has installed a new platform under the car in the US, hoping to further close the gap with Red Bull’s RB19 – painted in a special color scheme for the US GP.
Chances are, it’s worth it in a practice session, very good. Max Verstappen immediately sets the tone on the mogul slope as usual. But Lewis Hamilton put Mercedes ahead of the reigning world champions RB19 after fifteen minutes. Lance Stroll had problems in the first half hour, only able to complete five laps due to faltering brakes. Oscar Piastre survived a hard crash, while McLaren team-mate Lando Norris meanwhile set the fastest time.
With soft tires thrown under the cars in the final ten minutes for a decent simulation, Alex Alban was prime to improve Norris’ time. Verstappen next. His circuit was not equaled or improved by his colleagues. Leclerc comes closest, with Hamilton (with a serious drift on the way) finishing in P3.
Read all about the United States GP, including the full schedule, here
Special Champion Edition Formula 1 Magazine Now in stores. You can order the magazine digitally, with free delivery throughout the Netherlands! Read all about Max Verstappen’s special World Cup trilogy, with exclusive photography from our in-house photographer Peter van Egmond. This problem includes:
- Exclusive interview Dutch national coach Ronald Koeman: ‘Max reminds me of Messi’
- Red Bull team principal Christian Horner continues to marvel: ‘Max has run out of all superlatives’
- Photo series: Verstappen’s fast track to third world title
- The state-of-the-art F1 track of John Lammers and son Rene
- Gallery: A very beautiful image by resident photographer Peter van Egmond
- Columns by Noel Ummels and Nelson Valkenburg
- F1 insider Graham Watson on FOM’s commercial interest in a new superstar
- And all about Max Verstappen’s championship weekend in Qatar!