The best thing about Friday in Austin was the crowd, as so many fans turned up to pack the grandstands at the Circuit of the Americas, right from the start of free practice. It shows how much interest in Formula 1 has grown in the United States, as the sport returns here after being absent last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. There were a lot of Ferrari flags being waved in the crowd and plenty of the fans were sporting caps and shirts bearing the Prancing Horse emblem, confirming the long-time popularity of the Maranello marque in America.
On track. Both Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow drivers got through their planned track programme today, completing 85 laps between them. Carlos and Charles worked on set up and on getting to grips with the bumpy nature of the Austin track, especially in the first two sectors.
FP1. In the morning, Leclerc and Sainz started off with the Medium tyres setting times of 1’37”790 and 1’37”824 respectively. Once on the Softs, they significantly improved their times getting down to 1’36”334 and 1’36”508. Charles did 18 laps and his team-mate did 20.
FP2. In the afternoon, the programme followed similar lines, with the drivers again starting on Medium tyres to check the track evolution, while also fine tuning the SF21. Their first quick laps were a 1’36”464 for the Monegasque and 1’36”326 for the Spaniard. At the mid-point of the session they switched to Softs for a qualifying simulation when they set their fastest times: 1’35”572 for Charles and 1’35”919 for Carlos, the latter encountering traffic in the final sector. When it came to race simulation, the pair split the task, with Charles on the Mediums and Carlos on the Softs.
Programme. Tomorrow, the final hour of free practice starts at 13 (20 CET), with qualifying getting underway at 16 (23 CET). The United States Grand Prix starts on Sunday at 14 (21 CET).
Charles Leclerc #16
"It feels great to be back in the United States. The atmosphere here is always so special, both at the circuit and around the city of Austin. Everyone is really friendly and enthusiastic and it’s been great to already see fans waving their flags and supporting us in the grandstands today.
In terms of our sessions, we ran through the planned programme, testing a bit of everything. What was challenging were the bumps on the track which made it very tricky to drive.
With temperatures running quite high, tyre management was a key factor. Tyres overheated, especially in the third sector. You have to find a perfect balance between pushing in the first sector while losing time in the last one, or saving the tyres in the first part to be quicker at the end of your lap. We will do some more work in FP3 to understand how to optimise this ahead of qualifying tomorrow."
Carlos Sainz #55
"It’s good to be back in Austin! The track felt great as always, right from the start. It’s a great circuit and very enjoyable to drive. It’s got bumpier over the years but I think it gives character to the track and it presents new challenges for the cars and the drivers.
We tried different set ups today and improved a bit from FP1 to FP2. Overall, I’m happy with our Friday and the pace is promising, taking into account I got traffic in Sector 3 of my fast lap and couldn’t close an otherwise good looking lap.
Track temperature was very high today and that obviously had an effect on the long runs, where degradation appeared quickly on the Softs. That could make things tricky come Sunday, so we’ll keep an eye on it."