After one soggy false start in Japan, Pirelli could finally assess the difference between their 2022 compound of tyres and their brand-new Formula 1 2023 compounds at the Circuit of the Americas, with FP2 being extended to 90 minutes for the second race weekend in succession.
The 20 teams and drivers would have plenty of time to learn about the new tyre and how it compares to the current spec, which they will use in qualifying and the race.
To study the gap between the 2022 and 2023 tyres, we will analyse the times of three drivers, Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel and Alex Albon.
This is because all three drivers will have taken part in both practice sessions and driven cars of varying levels of competitiveness, giving us a real idea of what the difference looks to be between the old and new tyres.
The run plans and prescriptions were identical for all the teams in order to collect the first batch of data that will be used to define the harder compounds in the 2023 Pirelli tyre range
Max Verstappen – Red Bull
The newly crowned F1 world champion didn’t do many laps in FP1, only managing eight during the session’s first 50 minutes, but regardless of his limited track time, Verstappen managed the fourth fastest time of 1:37.462 on the softs.
Later, Verstappen went back out on a new set of softs and was on course to move up to the front of the timesheets before running wide in the last corner, costing him time to Carlos Sainz.
In FP2 Verstappen opted for the 23 compound to kick off the session’s opening half an hour completing ten laps with his best time being a 1:39.575. Verstappen would do 16 more laps but failed to improve on his earlier time.
Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin
Vettel’s final appearance at COTA started well, briefly moving to second fastest before being shuffled back to tenth as he locked up on the run down to Turn 8.
The German started FP2 on the 23 compound completing ten laps and mustering up a time of 1:41.857 which was only good enough for 19th in the session’s opening stages.
But not a great deal happened after that for Vettel, as his car was put on jacks with just over 15 minutes left to go in the session after completing 26 laps.
Alex Albon – Williams
A low-key start to Friday for Albon, who struggled for pace in the morning session at COTA but did manage to showcase some speed as the Thai-British driver managed to finish in front of Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri and Mick Schumacher’s Haas.
FP2 kicked off in a similar fashion for Albon who began the session on the new 23 spec tyres managing 10 laps with his quickest lap of a 1:41.853 over five seconds down on the early pace sitter Charles Leclerc with Albon eventually completing 26 tours of the COTA circuit.
Although the second practice session was a damp squib, we know that the new tyres will be much trickier to handle in low speed corners and slightly slower.
But that’s all we really know, as Pirelli didn’t specify the tyre compounds used in FP2, nor did the teams state what fuel maps they were running.
However, Pirelli will get some useful feedback from the drivers even if we still don’t fully know how quick the 2023 compounds will be when they get put to the test in Bahrain next March.