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2021 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas - Friday Observations From Peter Habicht

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

From Peter Habicht
Senior Motorsport Editor
The Auto Channel

AUSTIN, TX - October 22, 2021; Set against a warm Fall Texas day, a sold out crowd came out in force for the start of the 2021 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas this weekend.

The crowd rivaled previous Friday attendance took to turn 1’s spectacular views while several grandstands around the circuit were also busy.

Free practice sessions for Formula 1 and the W Series took to the circuit today, making their debut on US soil here in Austin this weekend.

Fan energy was noticeable from the paddock as well, as scores of fans waiting for a glimpse of Formula 1 drivers past and present, team leaders and celebrities to appear along the walkway between hospitality and team garages.  The energy has been high in town and at the circuit all week, and the much larger than average turnout today was a good sign that the sport has made an impact with its awareness and popularity in America.

A busy turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas, Free Practice 2

Mercedes AMG F1 took the top spot in the first practice session as Valttieri Bottas took the fastest time of the session with a 1:34.874s, and RedBull topping the sheets in the second session with Checo Perez at 1:34.946s.  Teams struggled with degradation today and experimenting with the soft and medium compound Pirelli tires to understand race run lengths over the rough 3.4 mile circuit.

Off track, one of the most exciting announcements today was for American fans of F1 as Florida native and F3 star Logan Sergeant was announced that he will focus entirely on his goal to reach Formula 1.  Sergeant recently turned down a drive in Indycar with AJ Foyt to join Williams’ Driver Academy for a year where he will compete in F2 en route to an F1 test and a much anticipated appearance by an American on the F1 grid eventually.

Logan Sargeant, Williams Academy Driver

Daimler Team Report - Friday October 22, 2021

A productive day of running for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team, as Formula One returned to action at the Circuit of the Americas

  • Valtteri set the pace in the first practice session, finishing just 0.045s clear of Lewis in P2.
  • Lewis was third fastest in second practice, narrowly finishing ahead of Valtteri in P4.
  • Earlier in FP2, Lewis set a lap time good enough to finish the session fastest, but it was deleted due to track limits at Turn 19.
  • Our focus across Friday was on optimising the long-run pace of the car, as well as understanding tyre degradation and track conditions with the bumps.
  • Imagery of the day is available on our media site. All imagery is rights-free for editorial use.
  • To download all available imagery from today with just one click, please use the following link (please note that imagery will download in a zip folder): Image selection




Valtteri Bottas

17 Laps





24 Laps





Lewis Hamilton

18 Laps





22 Laps





Valtteri Bottas

I think we have a good car here and even with my five-place grid penalty, we can still have a good race from wherever I end up starting. Today showed it is pretty close at the front but it’s still all to play for. Because of the penalty, the main thing for me was focusing on the long-run pace and that’s what we did, especially in FP2. There’s still a lot of work to do with the set-up, as it wasn’t easy to drive and, in some places, the track has lost quite a lot of grip, so the balance was inconsistent. But we’ll look at the best options tonight and see what we can do, because I will be racing other cars and need to overtake if I want to make it to the podium and fight for the win.

Lewis Hamilton

Generally, it’s been a good day but there’s still work to do. The first session was really good, but I made some changes for FP2 and I wasn’t as happy with the car. The pace wasn’t bad, but I think we lost a bit of ground to everyone, so we need to dig into the data tonight and figure out why. The surface here feels rougher and that means it’s a struggle to keep the temperature out of the tyres, so there’s more degradation than we’ve experienced before. It’s been a productive day so we have plenty of findings that we should be able to navigate well and improve for tomorrow.

Andrew Shovlin

The first session was very good in terms of single lap pace; both cars were getting good grip out of the Soft tyres and the balance was in a good place. The track is pretty bumpy, which causes issues in a couple of corners, but it’s not so different to previous years and certainly not as bad as we feared.  The second session didn’t look as strong, it was easy to overheat the tyres and that was making it harder to be consistent. Lewis had a lap deleted that would have us looking more competitive, but regardless, it seemed like we’d lost a bit of pace. That could be down to a number of things; perhaps we’d not adapted to the hotter conditions well, others may have improved, or it could be that some of our changes haven’t worked as expected. It’s useful to have found a few issues that we can get stuck into this this evening as there’s plenty we can do to improve, but the overall feeling from the second session is that it’s going to be very tight at the front and both Red Bulls are looking like they are in the fight for pole.