VIDEO: Ferrari must be “flexible” tomorrow, says Alonso

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With high temperatures expected for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix, everyone will be watching to see how the new Pirelli tires will hold up in the blistering heat. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso says those variables mean that his squad must be ready to change their plans on the fly during tomorrow’s event.

“The strategy will be very open, the tires are new for everyone and the high track temperature means we need to think of a strategy that can be modified at any moment,” Alonso said after qualifying fifth for tomorrow’s race. “The podium is always our target and I feel we can fight for it, even though we know it won’t be easy with such strong competition ahead of us.”

But while it’s still hard to predict how the new tires will fare, the Hungaroring’s notoriously difficult nature shall remain a constant throughout the Grand Prix. For Alonso, picking off positions during the rush down to the first corner will be important if he wants to have a puncher’s chance of cutting into Sebastian Vettel’s sizable championship lead this weekend.

“…We must look carefully at the start to try and make up a few places then and, on this front, the extra grip from being on the clean side should help,” Alonso said. “Here, it is hard to overtake in the race and so it’s even more important to try and make up ground immediately, particularly if we want to prevent Vettel from increasing his lead.”

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.