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Vettel has unfinished business In Austin As he goes fastest In Practice
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Posted By: Matt Meadows  |  15 Nov 2013   |  10:35 pm GMT  |  78 comments

It was once again a Red Bull Friday in Austin today as Sebastian Vettel headed Mark Webber in practice for the American Grand Prix, ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.

After narrowly losing the race victory to Lewis Hamilton last year, Austin remains an un-ticked box for Vettel and Red Bull and today’s pace illustrated that they are in no way letting their foot off the gas.

He is also looking to set a new record of eight consecutive wins in a season. And on the basis of his form here in qualifying simulation and long runs on both types of tyre, he looks set to achieve it.

It was a disrupted day for the F1 paddock as this morning’s FP1 session was initially delayed by half an hour as thick fog descended on the Circuit of Americas and limited visibility for both the drivers and the doctor’s helicopter.

After the delay, practice began in sunny conditions but within ten minutes was the subject of a red flag. Due to the poor weather conditions the doctor’s helicopter could not make it to the circuit and prompted a further fifteen minute delay.

From there, the half an hour that remained gave a mixed order as Fernando Alonso topped the times ahead of Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas. Button was later found to have passed a car under the red flag and was consequently handed a three-place grid penalty by the stewards, which include 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell.

The troubled morning session meant that this afternoon saw plenty of action on a circuit which is still very new to the Formula One field. And the cars were quickly up to speed with the fastest times of the respective session in 2012 as the tarmac has matured and released its oily lay that was produced during construction.

And it was Red Bull that quickly emerged as the pacesetters, in both one-lap and long-run configuration. The gain from the hard to medium tyre was between 8/10ths and a second, which will make for an exciting qualifying session. Red Bull and Mercedes may risk saving the option tyre run in Q1 for two runs in Q3.

Nevertheless, it looks set to be another weekend where we need to look elsewhere for some close battles and there are some interesting ones throughout the field.

With Hamilton ending the day directly behind his German team mate Mercedes are in good shape to cement their second place in the Constructors’ Championship. They are particularly strong through the increasingly impressive first sector, swooping through a six-turn snake prior to the long back straight.

Their closest rivals, Ferrari, had a mixed day. Following Alonso topping the times in FP1, the Spaniard ended the afternoon session in tenth place whilst the soon to be Williams driver, Felipe Massa, was twelfth. Traction out of slow corners remains the Prancing Horse’s issue, and on a circuit that requires slow speed traction they will be looking over their shoulder at a strong Lotus. They may well also find themselves behind a Sauber on the grid and in the race.

Heikki Kovalainen was the star of the day, fitting straight in to the Lotus E21 and setting an impressive pace. He ended the day in fifth place – three ahead of Romain Grosjean – and proved himself as a suitable candidate to replace Kimi Raikkonen, in these final two races at least.

Between the Lotus pair are the two Saubers, headed by Esteban Gutierrez. This is as much of a home race as the Mexican will experience until at least 2015 and he put together a good performance in front of the thousands of Mexicans that make the short journey across the border.

The top ten was completed by this morning’s fastest pair, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.


It was a special day for American Alexander Rossi, taking in his first American Grand Prix practice behind the wheel of the Caterham. He ended the morning session 7/10ths of a second faster than Charles Pic.

Danii Kvyat also made an appearance before his full-time drive for Toro Rosso in 2014. The young Russian ran an impressive session to finish 2/10ths down on Daniel Ricciardo.

AMERICAN GRAND PRIX, Austin, Practice
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m37.305s 35
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m37.420s +0.115s 37
3. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m37.785s +0.480s 38
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m37.958s +0.653s 38
5. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1m38.073s +0.768s 41
6. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m38.229s +0.924s 40
7. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1m38.254s +0.949s 40
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m38.255s +0.950s 33
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1m38.269s +0.964s 34
10. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.461s +1.156s 33
11. Adrian Sutil Force India 1m38.719s +1.414s 31
12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m38.938s +1.633s 37
13. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m38.941s +1.636s 31
14. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m39.246s +1.941s 28
15. Paul di Resta Force India 1m39.410s +2.105s 34
16. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m39.512s +2.207s 37
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m39.579s +2.274s 36
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m39.784s +2.479s 33
19. Charles Pic Caterham 1m40.376s +3.071s 39
20. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1m40.563s +3.258s 35
21. Max Chilton Marussia 1m46.226s +8.921s 31
22. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1m47.009s +9.704s 20

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78 Comments
  1. Rob Newman says:

    Did Kimi race or it was Heikki on 5th place? If that was Heikki, then he has done a good job in beating Grosjean.

    1. Maxxus says:

      it was Heikki..awesome job..we’ll see in qually what he can accomplish

      1. Tealeaf says:

        Everyone jumping the gun as usual! So what happened in FP3 then?

      2. Tealeaf says:

        And just to update and add: Kovalainen was destroyed by Grosjean in quali Q1, Q2 and Q3, I don’t know why alot of people were under the illusion Kovalainen was on the pace or something but as I was saying yesterday Grosjean had 0.6s in his pocket and its proven to be right, and before anyone jump the gun with “oh he had no KERS” just look at the Q1 and Q2 time there was no way Kovalainen would have got close to Grosjean, and nice job Vettel certainly silenced Brundle there.

      3. Rockie says:

        “and nice job Vettel certainly silenced Brundle there.”

        Oh boy I really love that I couldn’t stop laughing!

      4. Richard says:

        Let’s not forget Grosjean has been driving a Lotus for a few years, Heikki has just stepped in, not that Grosjean is not fast, he is, but it’s not a fair comparison at this stage.

    2. AlexD says:

      You are joking with the question, i hope?

    3. Sebee says:

      So far so good.

      Knock knock Lewis, remember me? :-)

    4. Spyros says:

      Does that mean that he’s faster than..?

      Nah, it can’t be. Nevermind… :D

    5. chris says:

      It was Heikki and very impressive indeed i’d say.

    6. Nick says:

      Kimi isnt competing in the final 2 races, Heikki is taking his place, and its quite encouraging to see him put the car fifth after only being announced a couple of days ago.

      Would love to see him on the podium again.

    7. I know says:

      I know at least one driver who would not enjoy Kovalainen finishing fifth on Sunday. If someone else gets to drive your car, that always means potential for embarrassment. Still, even though Kovalainen was also very good on the hard tyre, Friday’s times are not a guarantee for a similar performance on Sunday.

    8. John S says:

      “Heikki Kovalainen was the star of the day, fitting straight in to the Lotus E21 and setting an impressive pace. He ended the day in fifth place – three ahead of Romain Grosjean – and proved himself as a suitable candidate to replace Kimi Raikkonen, in these final two races at least.”

      Who knows what 2014 will bring but for now let’s set some records Seb! Excited for the race.

      1. +1 – he let his walking do the talking !!!

    9. Phenom says:

      Why would you think it is Kimi when it quite clearly says Heikki Kovaleinen and his appointment in the Lotus seat is probably the biggest news story in F1 in the last week? Are you being sarcastic?

      1. Sebastian says:

        Looks like there was a typo in the original text…

    10. Ed says:

      Go Heikki… maybe the dark horse for the spare lotus seat?

  2. MelB says:

    A hasty recovery indeed!
    “5. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m38.073s +0.768s 41″
    :-D

  3. Petoulet says:

    Heikki, of course. And now Davide looks a little worried.

  4. Seán Craddock says:

    I don’t understand why FP1 was started. Isn’t it in the rules that a session cannot take place if the medical helicopter can’t fly? The helicopter wasn’t even at the circuit! What if there had been an accident

    1. Roberto says:

      I think they can operate without a medical helo if ground transportation to a suitable hospital can be managed within a certain period of time. I’m sure someone here can chime in with the exact rule.

  5. Tim Wright says:

    Jennie Gow said that Heikki racing at Lotus is not an option for next year. Why?

    1. James Allen says:

      Because Heikki said so himself

      Lotus are going ahead with Maldonado I think

      1. Phenom says:

        That’s really disappointing to hear. Purely from the perspective that Hulkenberg is so deserving of a a top tier drive and within the last week we have a rookie joining McLaren and now a disrespectful, brash (albeit very quick at times) cash cow potentially joining Lotus. When is Nico going to get in top machinery?

      2. Loko says:

        I dont think next year Lotus-seat is as attractive as you think at the moment. Its not really guaranteed that Lotus can beat Sauber next year.

        This year the car is brilliant but Lotus has lost tons of important people during the year.

      3. Christos Pallis says:

        Unfortunately I think the car weight limit has been a concern for a few teams when it comes to Hulkenberg. Such a shame, just like when BMW could only run KERS on Nick Hidefelts car and not Kubica’s.

        Would also love to see a more deserving driver in the other lotus, not Pastor give that car a nudge Maldanardo. He’s got the delicacy of a bull. His style worked on last years Williams cos it helped generate tyre temp, this year it destroys the softer Pirelli tyres and he can’t adapt.

  6. Maxxus says:

    Danii Kvyat may have impressed in the chaotic FP1. But he is tall and seems a bit feeble (thin) for his height, I wonder if he will have the physical endurance to manage an F1 race.

    1. Timmay says:

      F1 doesn’t require much physical endueance these days, unlike the sprint races of lates 90s and 00s. Some of the drivers look like they can hop straight back into the car and go again even at the end of the hottest races.

      1. Maxxus says:

        What? so are you implying that skinny drivers can maintain competitiveness in a modern F1 car? They don’t require additional training to maintain a high physical level? Are you aware of the fitness is required in a top notch F1 car? Think about it, not just the g-forces,but your are sitting in a prone position,using a lot of upper body strength and susceptible to cramping etc if you are not physically fit (not to mention mentally fit). Being tall and skinny is a lot different than be tall and fit..ask Jensen (a triathlete) and Webber (an avid cyclist). They are tall and a bit light in weight for their height. Danii just looks skinny (like in he needs to adopt a serious diet and training regimen). Just saying….

    2. Fada says:

      He only appears feeble because he is tall. I am sure he will have no problems with race endurance and stamina.

      1. Tealeaf says:

        Well Vettel is thin and so is Button, neither of them have problems handling a car for the whole race do they?

    3. James says:

      I’m sure Red Bull would never have considered that.

    4. Christos Pallis says:

      Vettel looked like a skinny teenager when he arrived in F1 so I’m sure he’ll adapt

  7. Maxxus says:

    ok I see it was fixed

  8. Tom says:

    Heikki in my view is a good driver but very unlucky, hopefully this can be the start of his second career.

    1. DonSimon says:

      Yeah, I’d agree with that. He deserves another shot over some drivers in the field.

  9. luqa says:

    Hmm, maybe Ferrari took the wrong Finn?

  10. Spyros says:

    I wonder if some people at Ferrari are scratching their heads right now, looking at how Grosjean’s pace compares to Heikki, AND the other Finn…

    I can already see us all, spending this winter debating this one. Just as well, really..!

    1. xyler says:

      I would rather say they will or should thinke about why they didn’t take Hulk. I will never understand Ferraris decission because they would have saved several millions and Hulk is a very good and fast (and relatively young) driver.

    2. Tim says:

      If you are inclined to believe Ferrari had a hand in the timing of Kimi’s back operation – which, to be fair, I do. Then it could backfire spectacularly on them. Imagine Lotus overtaking Ferrari in the WCC after Ferrari thought they had handicapped them (by taking away one of the oppositions main weapons). The irony would be so thick you would need a chainsaw to cut it :-)

      1. DEANO says:

        Tim, I agree with your post, I think the pressure at Ferrari to win comes down to win and any cost. Remember last year at the US GP and the incident with the 2 Ferrari’s, getting a grid penalty on Massa’s car so that Alonso could start on the cleaner side of the grid? Although they technically didn’t break the rules, the ethics involved proved the point…win at any cost.

    3. Sebastian says:

      We don’t know what programs they are running. Normally FP3 is where you go for qualy setup.

    4. German Samurai says:

      I have never rated Alonso and Kimi as high as Hamilton and Vettel. Vettel is on another level again compared to Hamilton.

      You just have to look at the career records of Kimi and Alonso. Since their second seasons they’ve had drives in top teams, both have relatively poor pole to race ratios for “top drivers”, win to race ratios that are decent but not great considering who they have driven for, three championships between them. Kimi had a Newey McLaren for all those years but couldn’t convert it into a championship.

      Both guys are getting old, Kimi is at times unprofessional in his approach, Alonso doesn’t respond well to pressure from the other side of the garage. I really wonder about the decision making of teams when you have guys like Hulkenberg racing for pocket change.

      Alonso is the Piquet of this era and Kimi the Alesi.

      1. Rockie says:

        Interesting post!

      2. Tim says:

        I really wonder about the decision making of teams when you have guys like Hulkenberg racing for pocket change….

        There is no mystery at all. Once you accept your analysis is wrong, the teams decisions make perfect sense ;-)

  11. Sarvar says:

    Well done, Heikki. Red Bull in their own league as usual.
    Have read the interview of Gerard Lopez and looks like Quantum is a joke following predictions of ours.

  12. Jussi says:

    Good job Heikki.

  13. Andrew M says:

    It was Heikki, and while impressive nothing is awarded on Friday.

  14. Phil Glass says:

    Am I right that Kov is driving Grosjean’s car, and Grosjean is now in Kimi’s car?

    1. TGS says:

      Kov is in a long wheel base car but not sure about Gro.

      1. BW says:

        Both are driving long cars.

    2. KRB says:

      Not sure which chassis Heikki is using, but he’s in the #7 car with the black t-bar. Not sure if he’s using the short or long-wheelbase car either.

  15. Grant H says:

    Well done kov!!! Impressive ….. Always knew caterham were wrong to sign pay drivers instead….be really impressive if he can out qualify grosjean …. It may even give lotus a dilema!!!

    1. Random 79 says:

      You mean like a cash vs. talent dilemma?

      They’re going to go cash aka Maldonado.

    2. Random 79 says:

      You mean like a cash vs. talent dilemma?

      They’re going to go cash aka Maldonado, but if Heikki continues to perform well he should find a seat somewhere, most likely Caterham.

  16. Grant H says:

    I think ferrari will be concerned now…with normal racing i cant see how they can finish ahead of lotus in the constructors i think p4 is looking likely

  17. All revved-up says:

    Great to see Heikki do well.

    Hope he follows through on race day. If he beats Alonso in a Ferrari, and Grosjean, it will be a very impressive showing.

    Can’t wait to see how this story plays out.

  18. darren w says:

    My absolute favourite quote of the day was from Grosjean.

    “Asked if there had been a noticeable difference having Kovalainen in the team, Grosjean replied: “He speaks much more!””

    (http://en.espnf1.com/usa/motorsport/story/135367.html#I6KfowktqdaQ2E8x.99)

    1. Wade Parmino says:

      Kovalainen seems like a much nicer person than Raikonen as well. Raikonen is just plain unpleasant.

    2. Spyros says:

      He-he-he… fantastic!

      For muted comments by a Finn, see if you can find an interview of Hakkinen, just after he sealed his ’98 championship. Brundle was trying to get him excited, but Mika was having none of it… funniest thing I ever saw!

    3. Phil Glass says:

      Be nice if Grosjean hides his bitter attitude to Kimi and acknowledge a bit more that he learnt a lot from the best.

      Till he starts winning races: more shtum and less yap, s’il vous plais

      1. Elie says:

        Exactly Phil…If Grosjean says this in public – you can only imagine what he would say in a French led team. Funny how Kimi never has a bad word to say about anyone but he’s considered nasty.. I think the truth is the other way round– he is much “bigger” than the many tossers in the paddock

  19. Wade Parmino says:

    Surely Rossi can get a drive next season. He is infinitely better than Pic. There must be an American sponsor somewhere willing to provide the financial capital.

    Rossi and Ricciardo has a superb ring to it. An Italian-American and an Italian-Australian. It would be good to see both these guys in the same team some day. :)

  20. The Spanish Inquisitor says:

    Who is the most overrated pilot of the grid?
    Who is the most underrated pilot of the grid?

    A good questions for a good article, Mr. JA.

    1. James Allen says:

      A very good idea for post season

      Thank you!

    2. Glennb says:

      Overrated = Kimi
      Underrated = Vettel and Rosberg.

      An article based on this can only end in tears. Bring it on ;)

    3. Tealeaf says:

      The most overrated and over paid driver drives for Mercedes, the most undrrrated driver also drives for Mercedes, but considering how much discredit and unwarranted abuse he gets Vettel could also be classed as underrated, I’d bet Seb to beat any driver on the grid as his team mate and the bookies odds would agree with me, and oh yeah don’t get too excited over Kovalainen start the Grosjean bashing and Heikki loving after the race, Grosjean has another 0.6s in his pocket just watch quali and see.

      1. Richard says:

        Put Vettel in the current Ferrari and he would be keeping Massa company! It is the team and car that has made Vettel, take those away and he becomes somewhat mediocre.

    4. fan says:

      Overrated – HAM
      Underrated – ROS WEB

    5. Elie says:

      Easily the most under rated driver is Kimi Raikkonen
      Easily the most over rated right now Jenson Button

  21. Richard says:

    Well the race will be a Sunday drive in the country for Vettel. – Doesn’t have to try too hard given the car and formula. Beyond that absolutely great to see Heikki well up the timesheet in second practice. I’ve always felt that he was a lot better than his time at Mclaren demonstrated. I hope he is able to give lotus something to think about for next year both in qualifying and the race on Sunday.

  22. Gary says:

    Sergey Sirotkin, Max Chilton, Crashtor Maldonado and Guido van der Guarde are far more qualified than Heiki Kovaleinen to compete in today’s F1. After all, they bring sacks of cash while H.K. brings only skill.

  23. AlexTrickle says:

    If Vettel wins here he only needs to win Hungary next year and he’ll have won at every track on the calendar.

    1. KRB says:

      The tracks that were on the calendar this year, y’mean. Next year there’ll be Sochi, RB Ring, and Hockenheim. Plus NJ and Mexico if they make the final cut.

      He’s won on 19 different circuits, the same as Alonso. Next after that (amongst current drivers) is Lewis with 16, and Kimi at 14.

      1. Maxxus says:

        Maybe circuits in a nation, not various circuits which races were held

        old Nurburgring (nordschleife)
        old Hockenheimring (pre-2001)
        Paul Recard
        Watkins Glen
        Long Beach
        Indy
        Imola
        Spa-Francorchamps (pre-1979)
        Brands Hatch
        Zolder
        Anderstorp
        Jacarepaguá
        Mosport

  24. EPS says:

    (Off topic)
    James,
    What happened with McLaren selling/waving Mexican flags with a marijuana plant printed on them in Austin?
    Thanks,
    EPS

  25. German Samurai says:

    I’m hoping Vettel shows no mercy to Webber and deprives him of the final win he so badly craves. Maybe that’s why Webber’s been buttering up Vettel lately with the compliments a la the Hamilton/Alonso mutual admiration society.

    Webber nearly cost Vettel the championship with his squeezing in Brazil last year.

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