USA F1 Grand Prix 2018 Qualifying: Results, Times from Friday's Practice

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistOctober 19, 2018

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 19: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 on track during practice for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 19, 2018 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton is on course to sew up a fifth Formula One world championship in Sunday's 2018 United States Grand Prix after the Briton finished Friday's practice 1.3 seconds faster than any other driver.

A drenched track in Austin, Texas meant most drivers were prevented from posting more than a handful of laps in the second session, yet Hamilton still came out and made the fastest time in his first attempt.

However, the Briton posted Friday's best time in first practice with a lap in one minute, 47.502 seconds, per Formula 1:

Formula 1 @F1

Hamilton thumps in a lap 1.3s quicker than anyone else to go quickest His 1:47.502 is the benchmark as the conditions improve #USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 https://t.co/0Xl493dmCM

The Mercedes star will successfully defend his world title at the Circuit of the Americas on Sunday if he wins and Sebastian Vettel, second in the standings, finishes third or lower.

Valtteri Bottas was second-fastest to team-mate Hamilton in first practice, but the defending champion actually finished second to himself, setting a second-session best of one minute, 48.716 seconds:

Formula 1 @F1

FP2 CLASSIFICATION: Hamilton tops a rain-drenched session #USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 https://t.co/i4Gyg6ZJJr

Formula 1 writer Ben Hunt described the action after Hamilton first took to the circuit in second practice with only six minutes left:

Ben Hunt @benjhunt

Astonishing stuff as Hamilton blasts his way to the top of the timesheets with only ONE LAP. He is the quickest by 1.5 seconds. Incredible stuff.

Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly did have a brief sight at the summit when he went around in one minute, 50.199 seconds, two seconds faster than anyone else at the time. He eventually took second in P2 with a time of one minute, 49.728 seconds. Red Bull's Max Verstappen was 0.07 seconds slower in third.

Gasly managed 10 laps while Toro Rosso team-mate recorded the most in the second session with 19—Hamilton posted just three.

When told to "take it steady" by his garage after posting his first-lap best, per Sky Sports, Hamilton joked: "You know that when you say that I'm not going to take it steady."

Current runner-up Vettel faces a make-or-break weekend in Texas, but the wet conditions didn't provide the practice performance he was looking for as he settled for 10th in second practice. Weather taken into account, it was still a downgrade on the fifth he managed in the livelier first practice.

Channel 4 F1 correspondent Karun Chandhok noted Ferrari's frustrations as a season of development continued, although the time to turn it on and make a last-ditch lunge is nigh:

Channel 4 F1® @C4F1

Karun: “Sebastian Vettel in the Ferrari is coming in. They have quite a few modifications here. Ferrari are still pushing on in the update department." 🎙 It's an uphill battle for the Scuderia, but they are still developing the car with four races remaining 👍 #C4F1 🇺🇸 #USGP https://t.co/CyD6fRXPtD

But there was only so much one could do in the early practice session. Much of the first hour was tentative from the drivers, who looked uncertain to test even the heavier tyres on a wet track, while Sauber's Charles Leclerc caused a red flag when he spun gravel on to the circuit.

Mercedes have finished the last two Formula One Grands Prix—in Russia and Japan—with a one-two in the classification, and Friday's first practice hinted the same might come to fruition on Sunday.

However, even their bravery was tested by the wet:

Mercedes-AMG F1 @MercedesAMGF1

First run in the bag. Still wet out there, but feedback from the boys is that it’s not far off Inters 👀 Big 👏👏👏 to the guys braving the weather to watch #FP1 trackside this morning! #USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 https://t.co/0Sjuuc61Ne

One advantage of the conditions, however, was at least some different visuals:

Formula 1 @F1

Confirmed: F1 cars in the rain officially look AWESOME 😍 #USGP 🇺🇸 #F1 https://t.co/okxi3Ak6gr

Most drivers managed to record around 10 to 15 laps despite the rain, although eager Toro Rosso practice driver Sean Gelael managed 21, with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen not far behind on 20.

Mercedes have dominated early on in Austin, but the uncertain conditions mean that could all change on Saturday, when drivers and manufacturers alike will hope for clearer conditions in Texas.