Valtteri Bottas had the fastest time in first practice at the United States Grand Prix finishing in front of Lewis Hamilton.
Bottas, who has a five-place grid penalty following an engine change, was 0.045 seconds quicker than Hamilton.
Hamilton’s title rival Max Verstappen was a massive 0.932 seconds off the pace in his Red Bull, ahead of the Ferrari’s of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.
Mercedes’ pace bodes well for Hamilton as the seven-time champion seeks to overturn Verstappen’s six-point gap and reclaim the championship lead this weekend in Austin, Texas.
However, while Mercedes were expected to have a slight edge based on recent performance, the size of their advantage suggests there must be an off-set in engine mode or fuel load at play in the times, as the gap seems too big to be representative.
Mercedes have fitted Bottas’ car with a sixth internal combustion engine despite the fact that only three are permitted for the season, which means a five-place penalty for the Finn.
Williams driver George Russell and Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel also have engine penalties but they have taken more components – a turbo and MGU-H as well as the ICE – and they will start from the back of the grid as a result.
Things were way different in the second practice as Sergio Perez sparked hopes of a Red Bull resurgence as he went fastest, but teammate Max Verstappen failed to set a flying lap having got caught up in traffic. That left McLaren’s Lando Norris second and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton third fastest.
Verstappen and Hamilton drove side-by-side from the final corner through to Turn 1 with 10 minutes on the clock. The Red Bull driver called his rival a “stupid idiot” and offered him a choice gesture as the Briton sped away.