AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest lap in Friday’s rain-soaked first practice for the U.S. Grand Prix as he chases a fifth career championship this weekend.
Hamilton’s quickest lap at the Circuit of the Americas was 1 minute, 47.502 seconds. Teammate Valtteri Bottas was 1.3 seconds behind.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who must win Sunday or finish within seven points of Hamilton to extend the championship to next week in Mexico City, was fifth in the morning session.
Wet weather is likely to impact the rest of practice and qualifying ahead of Sunday’s race with rain expected through Saturday. The forecast calls for a dry race Sunday.
The slippery conditions caused plenty of early-session spinouts. Vettel ran through the circuit’s hairpin turn and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc spun into the grass.
Leclerc’s tires dragged gravel onto the track when he returned, forcing the session to be halted for several minutes for cleanup.
Overshadowed by a horrific crash involving Sophia Floersch was the fact that 19-year-old Dan Ticktum dominated and won the Macau Grand Prix – a victory that puts him closer to earning the superlicence required to allow him to race with Formula 1, according to Yahoo! Sports.
Ticktum won Macau’s qualification race as well as the Grand Prix, starting first in both events. For his victories, he earned 10 points, which combined with 25 for his runner-up finish in the European F3 Championship leaves him just five below the 40 needed for the license.
This was Ticktum’s second Macau Grand Prix victory.
“It was a dominant performance that I was preparing for,” Ticktum said on his web site. “I don’t think I’ve ever prepared as hard as I did for this race and it all worked out. In the final race a lot of variables were thrown at me but I handled them.”
On his way to victory lane, Ticktum had to survive several restarts including the lengthy red flag period following Floersch’s accident to repair the barrier.
“I can’t count how many safety car restarts we had to do,” Ticktum said. “It puts a lot of pressure on a driver here with such a long run down to the first corner. I can’t remember a weekend when I’ve put it all together so well.
“The car was absolutely perfect all weekend, it was so good and I can’t thank Motopark enough for that. I’ve never been so involved in the set-up, felt so at one with the car as I did this weekend.”