In the first free practice session for the US Grand Prix, world champions Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas underpinned the Mercedes favorites. Behind Bottas and the 0.045 seconds slower Hamilton, World Championship leader Max Verstappen in the Red Bull was 0.932 seconds behind at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin. After all, the Dutchman was the only driver in the first of two sessions on Friday who was less than a second behind the Mercedes duo. With the fourth fastest time, Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari was already 1.4 seconds behind.

Even before the warm-up, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was aware that Mercedes was the favorite in Texas.

"Austin is one of Lewis' strongest circuits," he said.

“We know he's very, very fast there.

But we are countering it and are not giving up. ”Hamilton has already won five times in Austin.

Verstappen himself is still without a win, but has had very good results in the past on the circuit that is popular with the drivers.

“It's a good track, a course where you can enjoy driving.

You can definitely overtake here, that's what makes it special, ”he said on Thursday.

New engines for Bottas and Vettel

Positive for Red Bull: Bottas, like Sebastian Vettel in the Austin Martin and George Russell in the Williams, got a new engine and will be punished for it on the grid on Sunday.

He has to move five places back.

"We are suffering a bit in terms of reliability this year, I think that is the sixth engine for Valterri," said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Vettel and Russell each get their fourth drive unit.

Vettel finished the training session in his Aston Martin in 14th place, 2.1 seconds behind the leaders.

Mick Schumacher finished the session in the home race of his employer Haas in penultimate place in front of his teammate Nikita Masepin.

Shortly before the end there was a collision with Red Bull driver Sergio Perez.

Will Michael Andretti join Sauber?

In bright sunshine and an asphalt temperature of 31 degrees, Fernando Alonso's training was over after less than two minutes. He had to park his Alpine at turn twelve with technical problems. The training was therefore interrupted for about eight minutes. Alonso was able to drive again in the last 15 minutes or so. Charles Leclerc slipped off the track in his Ferrari, but despite a slight impact he was able to continue to do laps without a compulsory break.

The grandstands around the 5.513 kilometer fast track with the spectacular sectors and the observation tower in the middle were not yet full on Friday, but the increasing enthusiasm of the fans in the USA was already noticeable.

The organizers are expecting a total of 360,000 spectators from Friday to Sunday, and 140,000 people will be on the track on race day alone.

During free practice, rumors about Michael Andretti joining Sauber grew.

According to Sky expert Ralf Schumacher, the deal affecting the Alfa Romeo team is now in a bag.

There was initially no official information.

Keywords: circuit, max verstappen, charles leclerc, mercedes, toto wolff, lewis hamilton, toto wolff.vettel, second, red bull, dutchman, usa, the red bull, formula 1, grand prix circuit, us