By James Galloway
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen went wheel to wheel during Exercise Two of the United States GP
Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will renew direct rivalry in the battle for Pole position in the United States on Saturday night, met already crossed paths on track in Austin during practice.
Since the collision for the second time this season in the Italian GP last month, direct duels between the championship protagonists in front of the field was effectively set on hold by grid penalties for each of them in the last two races.
But with no fines in play for the top two so far this weekend – although Valtteri Bottas does have a five -place drop in the second Mercedes for another engine change – a battle on the acrobatic circuit of the Amerces is waiting on its way to qualifying at 10pm tonight after Mercedes and Red Bull reach the top one practice session a piece on Friday.
And, unusual for a non-competitive Friday, there was even a brief flash point between the title rivals, separated by just six points in the standings, during the opening day.
Verstappen called Hamilton a “stupid idiot” over the radio after Hamilton caught up with him at the end of An out-round, with the two auto’s then go closely wheel-to-wheel down the pit of the circuit straight to the first corner.
Title candidate Max Verstappen reflects on Friday is ‘disappointing’ practice forward of the US GP
Verstappen, who to be broken down later qualifying simulations after being frustrated with traffic, said: of the incident with Hamilton: “We were all on the line” up to go for our lap, so I don’t really understand what happened there.”
Sky F1 Expert and 2009 world Champion Jenson Button said: “It was quite a fiery day for Max, to be honest. I think there is a little of frustration building.
“in that incident” [with Hamilton], he couldn’t get his lap and then he had traffic on new tyres for two laps in a row. l know what it feels like but it is how then you control yourself. Hopefully the team will sit down with him, calm him down so he can concentrate on FP3.”
IndyCar superstar Danica Patrick enjoys rivalry between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton this season
When does the US GP qualify? Sky F1s live Saturday times
6.45 pm: Practice three live (session starts at 7 p.m.)
8.30 pm: Special build-up show, Rivals: Hamilton vs Verstappen
9 o’clock in the evening: Qualifying build-up Live
10:00 PM: United States GP Live Qualifying
Practice points closer to Mercedes vs Red Bull duel
The protagonists’ short flash point aside, practice intriguingly indicated that the battle between Mercedes and Red Bull may be closer than it was last time out in Turkey when the latter struggled against the straight line speed of their rivals and with general car balance.
It didn’t look like this way when Mercedes enjoyed a big advantage of nine tenths of An second in opening practice, but it was Red Bull who were officially faster in the second practice. Lewis Hamilton did post the fastest lap of the session before it was removed for track limits, but even then its advantage over Sergio Perez was just one tenth of An second.
“It was a good day but still work to do,” said Hamilton.
“FP1 was really a… good session; made some changes and was not happy in P2. Still not like that bad pace but I think we lost some ground for everyone, of they gained ground, so we have some work to do, as always.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was not best delighted with are FP2 pace forward of the United States GP
Bottas indicated that he in anyway the second practice to focus on race pace be given penalty means he will start new higher than sixth on Sunday.
“Still a lot of work To do with the set-upsaid the Finn, the victor on F1’s previous visit to Texas two years ago. “It’s not easy to drive not at all and it is like in in some places this track has lost quite a bit of grip, then the balance is inconsistent.”
Verstappen’s traffic frustrations caused him to finish up an unrepresentative eighth. But he still felt like there were positives to get out of his Friday.
“Generally speaking, it’s not easy out there,” said the sixpoint title leader. “The track is quite bumpy and to find the right compromise with the car not been easy until now.
“But we know a few positives to watch and we’ll keep going work on Which. It didn’t feel bad on the short one run, it was just a mess with traffic.”
Jenson Button’s Merc-Red Bull Qualy Prediction From Sky F1:
“Ras runs were very similar and I think in qualifying they will be quite similar. Checo [Perez] did a great round; Lewis was faster, but his lap was disallowed for running off at turn 19, and we don’t know what Max could have done.
“I think die four up front, the two Mercedes and the two Red Bulls, going to fight” out for pole position, that’s what we all do want.”
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