Lewis Hamilton led the way in the second practice session for the United States Grand Prix at COTA, while Romain Grosjean’s afternoon was interrupted by a crash.
Early in the session, Grosjean lost control during the high-speed first sector, while trying to catch a snap of oversteer after hitting a bump and over-correcting. While Carlos Sainz suffered a similar incident in FP1 but slid sideways over the track, Grosjean’s over-correction pointed him to the outside of the track, and he hit the barrier with the nose of the car, damaging the front left corner and causing a red flag.
The session was delayed while the car was recovered and brought back to the paddock, and when running resumed it was Hamilton who set the pace during the soft tire runs with a 1m33.232s. Hamilton – who only needs to score four points to secure a sixth drivers’ championship – was 0.3s clear of Charles Leclerc, with Max Verstappen just 0.014s behind the Ferrari on a day where the top three teams were closely matched.
Sebastian Vettel was fourth-quickest and 0.6s off Hamilton, but suffered a bizarre spin at low speed late in the session. During his long run on hard tires, Vettel swapped ends at Turn 15, appearing to lost control when getting on the power. The car rolled backwards across the grass and didn’t suffer any damage, and Vettel was able to continue his run on the same set of tires.
Fifth-placed Valtteri Bottas was the only other driver within a second of Hamilton, ending up 0.8s slower than his team-mate. Bottas was one of many drivers to have lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 19 on his long run; the FIA being strict on drivers leaving the track with all four wheels.
Alex Albon in sixth was 1.2s off the pace and more tellingly less than 0.1s clear of the man he replaced at Red Bull as Pierre Gasly enjoyed a strong start to the weekend. For the second consecutive session Gasly was the lead Toro Rosso, with Daniil Kvyat catching a high-speed spin at Turn 17 on his long run and just keeping the car out of the gravel.
With Carlos Sainz in eighth, Lance Stroll ninth and Antonio Giovinazzi 10th – all within 0.2s -–there were seven different teams represented in the top 10. One of those not included was predictably slowest in the form of Williams, while the two Renaults were 11th and 13th and Haas struggled with Kevin Magnussen finishing 17th-fastest, just ahead of Grosjean.