United States GP: Valtteri Bottas fastest in Practice One but has grid penalty for another engine change

Mercedes leave Red Bull trailing out of the box in Austin in early one-two, although Valtteri Bottas will take another grid drop on Sunday; title-leader Max Verstappen nine tenths of a second off the pace in opening session

Last Updated: 22/10/21 6:56pm

Mercedes made an impressive fast start to the United States GP weekend by finishing nine tenths ahead of Red Bull in opening practice, although pacesetter Valtteri Bottas will carry a grid penalty into Sunday’s race.

Bottas led title-chasing team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the opening session by 0.2s after a best lap of 1:34.874 amid an early show of strength for Mercedes’ W12 around the Circuit of the Americas.

Championship leader Max Verstappen finished nine tenths of a second adrift in the Red Bull in third.

But Bottas’ chances of fighting for back-to-back wins after his impressive triumph in Turkey a fortnight ago will be compromised on Sunday by a five-place grid penalty for taking a sixth engine of the season.

It is the third time in four races that the Finn has taken a grid penalty for engine component changes. Hamilton took his own grid drop in Istanbul.

Having acknowledged in recent weeks there remain concerns over the reliability of their power units, Mercedes said the latest change for Bottas is viewed as the “best balance of performance and reliability to the end of the season”, which has five more weekends to run after this one.

Meanwhile behind the top three on the P1 timesheet, Ferrari started the weekend strongly with Charles Leclerc fourth ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly was sixth ahead of Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who ran most of the session on the hardest available tyre compound.

Second practice is live at 9pm on Sky Sports F1.

More to follow.

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