Round 17 of the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship began with practice on Friday at Circuit of the Americas as teams prepared for Sunday's United States Grand Prix.
Track action consisted of two 60-minute sessions - FP1 and FP2 - on the 5.513-kilometer (3.426-mile), 20-turn circuit - Formula 1 basking in the Texan heat on opening day with air temperature hovering around 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and track temperature peaking at 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
Mick Schumacher kicked off FP1 with a wake-up run in his VF-21 on the Pirelli P Zero White hard tire - Nikita Mazepin utilizing the Yellow medium compound to start. A switch to the Red soft rubber for a baseline stint delivered a best lap of 1:40.323 for Schumacher. Mazepin failed to set a competitive lap time after an off at Turn 19 cost the Russian the best of his tire set. A final high-fuel outing finished FP1 - Schumacher's session ending a little earlier than planned after contact with Perez (Red Bull Racing) at Turn 12 - the German returning to the garage as a precaution.
FP2 proved to be another workmanlike affair with Schumacher ending the session 17th overall on the timesheets thanks to a quali sim lap of 1:37.041 on the soft tires. Mazepin was 20th with a best effort of 1:38.026 - also on the soft compound. Schumacher also used the second practice to sample the medium rubber with Mazepin trying out the hard tires to start. Both cars finished Friday's running with another high fuel run through to the checkered flag.
Uralkali Haas F1 Team ran a total of 83 laps on Friday across FP1 and FP2 - 42 by Mazepin and 41 by Schumacher.
Nikita Mazepin: "It was bumpy and high-speed which isn't ideal, but it definitely gives character to the circuit. I haven't had the easiest day with traffic, the track is very long but for some reason I was just not able to fit it together. I saw lots of cars complaining about it so unfortunately on a track where degradation is so high, we couldn't get the one lap pace we needed today. It should be good tomorrow."
Mick Schumacher: "I loved it - it's fun driving here and it's nice seeing the crowd out. It was a decent start to our first weekend in Austin with still lots to do though. We had a few patches which were very grippy for some reason, some others that weren't, but it's about finding the right line and the right set-up for these circumstances which I think will stay all weekend. It would be great to have another Q2 appearance to confirm what we did in Turkey, we'll just have to wait and see."
Guenther Steiner: "Well, the most important element of today was that we were back in the United States in front of fans having missed out last year. It's been great to see everyone here enjoying themselves and the atmosphere is always energetic at COTA - it's a real boost and bodes well for the rest of the weekend. On track, it was a solid day - nothing too unexpected from the two free practice sessions, it was all pretty standard. We are where we are performance-wise - we know that, but it was good for Nikita and Mick to get their first laps in at another new circuit, it's all part of their rookie experience."