Lewis Hamilton left with headache after bumps, but excited for US GP
"I had a massive headache after P1 and had to lay down," says Hamilton - but he finishes Friday on top ahead of huge weekend
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 02/11/19 7:20am
Lewis Hamilton says he felt "horrible" after suffering "massive headaches" on a bumpy Austin track at the start of Friday's practice - but is excited for a potentially title-clinching United States GP weekend after finishing the day on top of the timesheets.
Hamilton's championship quest - the Englishman needs four points to claim a momentous sixth crown in Texas - is the major talking point of the US GP, but the weekend got off to a, quite literally, bumpy start on an uneven Circuit of the Americas circuit.
Max Verstappen set the pace in P1, with Hamilton over a second behind.
"After the first session I was not feeling good," admitted Hamilton. "It was the bumpiest track by far that I'd ever been on. I was feeling horrible, I had a massive headache after P1 and had to lay down.
"Bumps add characteristics to a circuit so I'm not a fan of completely smooth circuits, but on this one there are massive, massive bumps. I might have to put a pillow on my seat or something!"
Mercedes and Hamilton bounced back in second practice, with the championship leader - although helped by a tow on his fastest lap - three-tenths ahead of Ferrari's Charles Leclerc and Verstappen in the Red Bull.
A repeat of that in Saturday's qualifying would give Hamilton his first pole since July's German GP - and a high grid position would be ideal given he only requires an eighth-placed finish in the race to secure an early coronation.
When's the US Grand Prix on Sky?
The United States GP will be exclusively live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend as Lewis Hamilton seeks to win a sixth world championship.
"Red Bull I think was looking quite good earlier and now Ferrari are looking quite strong," said Hamilton as he assessed the competition and looked ahead to the weekend.
"I'm excited though. I love this track in general and it's one that has generally suited me in the past and the car is feeling fairly decent. We've got some work to do and we've got some things to improve on."
Hamilton is a five-time winner at the COTA circuit, only failing to taste victory in 2013 and last season.
Valtteri Bottas needs to win this weekend to have any chance of prolonging the championship battle, but finished eight-tenths down on Hamilton in P2.
"I was losing big chunks of time in a straight line," said the Finn.
Is Verstappen Hamilton's main threat?
While Ferrari, whose qualifying streak was halted by Verstappen in Mexico last week (before he was demoted), are looking quick over one lap again, the early signs are that it may be Red Bull's star driver who could provide Mercedes' sternest test.
Red Bull are often much quicker in the race and Verstappen was third, only a few hundredths down on Leclerc in the lead Ferrari in Friday's closing session.
"It doesn't look too bad," Verstappen told Sky F1. "I think short runs we seem competitive, long runs I wasn't entirely happy and I think we can still do a little bit better.
"This track is very aggressive on tyres as well so I think if we can keep the tyres under control then suddenly everything looks a lot better. But overall a good start to the weekend."
Leclerc also felt Ferrari needed to improve their race runs, while Sebastian Vettel is also looking for the team to make a step on Saturday after struggling somewhat on the opening day of practice.
Vettel finished fourth in P2, 0.6s off Hamilton.
"The track is not in the best place with the bumps but it is what it is and it makes it extra special and more tricky for us," said Vettel. "It's always fun. We need to improve ourselves a little bit and then go from there."