What we learned from Friday at the United States Grand Prix

He may only need to finish eighth on Sunday to be crowned world champion but Lewis Hamilton began the United States Grand Prix weekend with familiar results at COTA.

The Mercedes star has only failed to win two of the seven races held in Austin, Texas since its introduction to the F1 calendar and he has previous for title coronations in the Lone Star State, having done so with a race win in 2015.

Although Hamilton needs to finish just eighth on Sunday to move onto outright second place in terms of F1 titles, he looks set to do a bit better than that, judging on Friday’s evidence.

But was P1 at the end of the day for Hamilton a true reflection of his and Mercedes’ strength?

Hamilton’s headline lap

The Briton’s leading time of 1:33.232 was three tenths quicker than nearest rival Charles Leclerc, although the lap did feature a sizable tow, which perhaps explains the advantage.

Valtteri Bottas, by comparison was eight tenths away and it was suggested to him during the session that the slipstream had accounted for a large chunk of that.

With Ferrari especially set to turn up the power on Saturday, it remains to be seen whether Hamilton can repeat the feat in qualifying.

But race pace has been strong for Mercedes in recent races, helping them take three wins on the spin despite not taking pole in any of them.

The signs look good again there, with Hamilton lapping considerably quicker than Leclerc on extended stints on the soft tyre.

Ferrari headaches

FP2 was a testy session for the Scuderia, with Leclerc struggling on the bumpy COTA track – he wasn’t the only one – and Sebastian Vettel suffering a spin.

Luckily Vettel’s mishap was not as costly as a similar moment for Romain Grosjean, which swiped the front wing off the Haas car.

Much of Leclerc’s long run practice was spent trying to negotiate the bump at the exit of Turn 9, and the Monegasque cut an exasperated figure over team radio when Ferrari’s advice did not seem to help.

A bump (or three) in the road

Drivers reported all day that the bumps on the track have gotten worse, and a few particularly nasty spots did catch the eye.

The previously mentioned segment exiting Turn 9 has caught out many drivers, while a nasty-looking hump on the exit of the pitlane has likely left most drivers with scrambled senses on their out-laps.

Hamilton reported during FP1 his concerns that the track was unsafe, although the drivers did seem to get to grips with the challenging surface more as the day went on, however qualifying could be in line for some shocks if drivers err while going flat out.