F1 World Champion 2014
Lewis Hamilton
Vettel and Red Bull show them the way on opening day in Austin
Scuderia Ferrari
Sebastian Vettel - XPB
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Nov 2012   |  1:46 am GMT  |  32 comments

Formula 1’s latest attempt to put down permanent roots in America got underway at the Circuit of the Americas today and it was the man who made his debut the last time the sport raced in the United States five years ago, Sebastian Vettel, who enjoyed the most dominant of Fridays.

The Red Bull driver has his first chance to clinch his third consecutive world title this weekend if results go his way and in practice he demonstrated the kind form needed to at least keep to his part of the bargain with big margins of superiority in both FP1 and FP2.

While his 1.4-second advantage in the first session could be explained by the use of fresh tyres on his final run, Vettel’s later 0.7s lead at the end of FP2 on the medium option compound came despite missing almost half of the running with a water leak from his RB8′s radiator.

The feeling even before the weekend was that the new 3.4-mile circuit, with its sweeping opening sector, would play to the strengths of the Red Bull and Mark Webber’s strong start to the weekend would also seem to confirm this, the Australian taking second place in FP2 having consistently vied for the fastest time while the sister car was being worked on in the garage.

The uphill climb to turn one is Austin's standout corner

Ferrari and Fernando Alonso outpaced McLaren on single-lap pace to take a distant third in relation to the time Vettel was able to set, with the Woking team struggling with tyre warm-up on what was a very dusty and slippery surface throughout. Pirelli has brought the hardest two tyres in its range to the inaugural event and the firm is already predicting a one-stop race on Sunday with degradation not proving a major issue.

Ferrari brought a number of small further updates to the F2012, including front wing and diffuser tweaks, which Alonso tried and, although less than a hundredth adrift of Webber, the gap to the his championship rival was not lost on the Spaniard.

“It’s no surprise to see the two Red Bulls ahead of the field: in the last few races they have had the best package, therefore today’s result is logical,” Alonso reflected.

“We know what are our strengths – team work and reliability – and we will make the most of them in the fight. The updates we have brought here seem to work, but we still need to look more closely at the data before having a definite answer. I am happy about this, but it’s also true that while we are making small steps forward with each passing race, so too are the others, so the distance between us remains unchanged.

“Would I be happy to be third again tomorrow afternoon? Sure, but this is only Friday and we have been in this position before and then on Saturday other cars have got ahead of us.”

The race simulations as usual offered more hope for Ferrari, with Lewis Hamilton actually setting the fastest lap of anyone for McLaren during this phase at the end of the day.

All in all F1 enjoyed an encouraging first day back in the USA, with organisers in Austin revealing that over 65,000 people turned up to watch the day’s action in total.

The drivers were generally very enthusiastic about the challenge presented by the circuit with Hamilton hailing it as a “great drivers’ track”, having taken particular enjoyment from the first sector of the lap which includes the sweeping Silverstone/Suzuka-style complex of corners.

US GRAND PRIX, Circuit of the Americas, Free practice 2
1. Sebastian Vettel  Red Bull  1m37.718s  17
2. Mark Webber  Red Bull  1m38.475s  + 0.757  36
3. Fernando Alonso  Ferrari  1m38.483s  + 0.765  35
4. Lewis Hamilton  McLaren  1m38.748s  + 1.030  31
5. Jenson Button  McLaren  1m38.786s  + 1.068  32
6. Felipe Massa  Ferrari  1m39.029s  + 1.311  33
7. Nico Rosberg  Mercedes  1m39.448s  + 1.730  32
8. Bruno Senna  Williams  1m39.531s  + 1.813  38
9. Kamui Kobayashi   Sauber   1m39.653s  + 1.935  36
10. Michael Schumacher  Mercedes   1m40.115s  + 2.397  30
11. Kimi Raikkonen  Lotus  1m40.166s  + 2.448  32
12. Pastor Maldonado  Williams  1m40.230s  + 2.512  35
13. Romain Grosjean  Lotus  1m40.286s  + 2.568  32
14. Sergio Perez  Sauber  1m40.326s  + 2.608  35
15. Daniel Ricciardo  Toro Rosso  1m40.435s  + 2.717  30
16. Jean-Eric Vergne  Toro Rosso  1m40.516s  + 2.798  32
17. Nico Hulkenberg  Force India  1m40.700s  + 2.982  34
18. Paul di Resta  Force India  1m41.430s  + 3.712  35
19. Heikki Kovalainen  Caterham  1m42.476s  + 4.758  38
20. Timo Glock  Marussia  1m42.652s  + 4.934  33
21. Vitaly Petrov  Caterham  1m42.846s  + 5.128  38
22. Charles Pic  Marussia  1m43.538s  + 5.820  38
23. Pedro de la Rosa  HRT  1m44.453s  + 6.735  16
24. Narain Karthikeyan  HRT  1m45.114s  + 7.396  20

 

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32 Comments
  1. KRB says:

    Watched both sessions, and geezus, it seemed as though Vettel/RBR were just playing with the rest of the grid. 0.7 sec’s?!?!!

    McLaren lose a lot in that final sector. They said that the RB8 was 15 kph quicker in the double-apex turn in India, so I wonder how much quicker the Red Bull is thru the triple-apex right-hander in Austin?

    Going by just today, it looks like Vettel will walk it, and while he might not clinch the title here, it will be pretty much sewn up.

    1. F1addicted says:

      Yes – the last thing Alonso needs now is the Turkey turn because Newey is on a different planet when it comes to the grip and stability through such a thing. Looks like an easy pole to victory race.

    2. JohnnyBenerba says:

      I watched both sessions as well had the same feelings. It almost felt like the water leak was an excuse so that they wouldn’t dominate all day but they did anyway. Vettel is amazing but that car is something else. It should be a walk on the range on Sunday.

    3. PDiddly says:

      Even if he wins, he cannot clinch it, he needs alonso to finish with 15 points or less, or is it 14 ? Second is 18, third 15 ?

      It would be very nice if he gets it sown up and we can have a relaxed party in Brazil, it has been so satisfying seeing him catch and pass the undeserving alonso this season.

      1. RodgerT says:

        If Vettel wins, and Alonso gets 10 points or less the title is Seb’s.

  2. Chromatic says:

    I wonder if that water leak holds a terrible secret drama for tomorrow?
    Actually I hope not.
    Seb showed last time out that he has the steel in his spine to bounce back from disaster, and I think this has affected Alonso much more deeply than he will admit.

    But there is this leak….

    1. Brad says:

      This leak was fixed… what matters is the race

    2. Quattro_T says:

      “Seb showed last time out that he has the steel in his spine to bounce back from disaster, and I think this has affected Alonso much more deeply than he will admit.”

      Naah, ALO is smart enough to realize the only real overtake VET needed to do in ABU was on BUT…on much fresher tyres – Rest was due to a combination of race specific circumstances, superiour package and a big chunck of Lukk.

    3. Lisa Thomas says:

      Last time out was unbelievable. Failing to put in enough fuel was a stupid unforced error and Horner should carry that responsibility.

      BTW, as yesterday was “Lets Bash Vettel” day on the Forum, can we make today a Seb Support day please?

      1. azac21 says:

        You can support the man all you want but you cannot ignore the fact that Alonso is the much better driver who has inspired most of the fans this year! Vettel is missing the “inspiring” bit in his driving which is important for wider acceptance by the fans. For this reason I think even if the comparison was between Vettel and Hamilton, the latter would win the fan’s vote.

      2. Simon Donald says:

        +1

      3. splinky says:

        I thought everyday is a “Lets Bash Vettel” day. At least thats the impression that I get from reading most F1 forums. Lets give Seb the respect he deserves. He is only 25 and has achieved so much. What were you doing when you were 25?

    4. Dave C says:

      At last someone that talks sense and praises Seb for his brilliant drive at Abu Dhabi, in fact Alonso was so dejected on that podium its like he knew hes met his superior that day, it might even be true that no one else on the grid could have done that drive achieved by Seb overtaking at will like that, made Webber look stationary but this weekend many twists and turns can unfold lets just wait and see, so far advantage Vettel.

      1. azac21 says:

        Dave C,
        you were probably watching a different race that most of the fans watched. Vettel bashed his way through a bunch of midfielders while Webber did his best to remove as many front runners as possible from his path.

        Oh! I forgot the safety cars too….

      2. RodgerT says:

        While I’m sure Alonso was disappointed that Vettel made up so much ground in that race, I’m sure his demeanor on the podium had more to do with the fact that he was just knackered.

      3. Rirory says:

        Yeah it’s about time, if the Red Bull was really the fastest car in Abu Dhabi, Webber should have won handily. Biased people forget that for a quick car to be the fastest, it also needs a fast driver.

  3. AlexD says:

    Will not comment on the speed of Red Bull.
    I am a bit angry on Pirelli – what they are doing? Now Hembry is 100% convinced that we will have a straightforward 1 stop race with no room for strategy variations. Was it by design – bring chaos in the beginning of the year and then play safe to have no surprises?

    Looks extremely manipulated.

  4. Nathan says:

    I wonder how far an f1 car could jump launching from turn one with a couple of wing changes.

  5. Tim says:

    Looks like a “W” for Vettel on
    Sunday. A “SC” or momentary case of
    “brain-fade” on Vettel’s part,
    causing him to step out on to the
    dirty line and spin out, seems the
    likeliest scenario to ensure Sao
    Paulo has meaning.

    Don’t care who wins, just want a
    fair fight to the finish.

    Tim

    1. Wetcoaster says:

      is this Tim 1 or Tim 2?

      1. Tim says:

        The genuine article.

        Tim

  6. Marc Aubry says:

    The time difference is choking to say the least. it is early days and let’s see if the other teams can close up some. Already in the 1.38 on the first day as against the what you estimated James the qualify time would be is also a surprise. If the time gains follow the usual pattern, we should see pole in the 1.35. At least your call on this seeming to be a RB track is spot on. Cheers, Marc

  7. JohnBt says:

    Should be a good race on Sunday as I feel this is the best Tilke design so far. Lots of cars going off track which will surely bring some good overtaking moves, pressurizing drivers to defend and also over attacking and running off line. Many will put 4 wheels out of the track and stewards will be eagle eyed.

    Austin will be a good race.

  8. Al says:

    Where there’s a leak there’s a way… :-)

  9. Kurt says:

    For this to be a success it needs to be a race not a walk in the park. If this turns into a prosession then It will be a failure for US audiences.

  10. dt says:

    Very disappointed with the acres of run-off areas outside the corners. Removes most of the challenge, no penalty for making a mistake.

  11. Irish con says:

    Red bulls biggest advantage is making the tyres work the earliest. It Must of took Fernando 8 laps to get a lap on the mediums and massa didn’t improve by a tenth from his hard tyre run. The first sector is great but sectors 2 and 3 and very average. Nothing outstanding anyways.

  12. Rob Newman says:

    Great practice sessions. I didn’t expect anything else from the current World Champion.

    Turn 19 looks very tricky and I won’t be surprised if there are safety cars which can turn the title race upside down. Overtaking is possible but some of the turns are so tricky it can delay overtaking.

    Red Bull reliability is still a question. This is worrying. Last time when Vettel was super fast, the alternator gave up. I hope it doesn’t happen again.

    1. KRB says:

      I think SC’s are a certainty on Sunday. There’s a lot of corners that invite dive-bomb’s, and someone is definitely going to try it and have it blow up in their face.

  13. Anil says:

    The Mexican track looks fantastic. Reminds me of monza but with the suzuka esses in their too.

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