Vettel tops opening practice in Austin

Sebastian Vettel

Formula 1 cars are on track at Circuit of The Americas™ and it was Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel who set the pace in the opening free practice session for Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

Team engineers had predicted a lap time of around 1 minute 39 seconds around the 3.427-mile (5.516 kilometer) Austin circuit but that wasn’t quite good enough for the reigning world champion. Vettel posted a best time of 1:38.125 on his 30th and last lap of the 90-minute session to edge out Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren Mercedes by almost a second and a half.

Those were the only two drivers to break the 1:40 barrier. Fernando Alonso, the man chasing Vettel for the 2012 drivers’ world title, was third-quickest for Ferrari with a time of 1:40.337.

In a session where all 24 drivers turned high numbers of laps getting to know the new track, there were plenty of slides and half-spins but no major incidents as everyone sought the limits of both the surface and the Pirelli tires. It will take time for the Circuit to “rubber in" as the cars turn more and more laps.

Circuit of The Americas had not seen a lap turned in anger – but the first session saw the field put in a total of almost 650 high-speed laps in an hour and a half. Hardest-working of all was Nico Rosberg, whose Mercedes racked up 32 of them.

Slowest of the morning was Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua, who enjoyed his fifth Friday run in the HRT car in place of regular race driver Narain Karthikeyan. Shanghai native Ma, 25, finished 10.434 seconds off Vettel’s session-topping pace.

First man out on the track in an official Formula 1 session was Kimi Raikkonen, winner for Lotus Renault last time out in Abu Dhabi and one of six world champions in the 2012 field


Pos Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m38.125 +0.000s 30
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.543s +1.418s 28
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m40.337s +2.212s 29
4. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m40.528s +2.403s 29
5. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m40.650s +2.525s 30
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m40.966s +2.841s 26
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m41.023s +2.898s 29
8. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.036s +2.911s 28
9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m41.159s +3.034s 32
10. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m41.473s +3.348s 29
11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m41.783s +3.658s 29
12. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.825s +3.700s 28
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m41.833s +3.708s 29
14. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1m41.880s +3.755s 23
15. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m41.998s +3.873s 27
16. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m42.539s +4.414s 30
17. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m42.588s +4.463s 25
18. Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.288s +5.163s 23
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1m43.443s +5.318s 28
20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1m43.522s +5.397s 23
21. Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1m44.464s +6.339s 24
22. Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1m44.548s +6.423s 29
23. Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1m46.917s +8.792s 13
24. Ma Qing Hua HRT-Cosworth 1m48.559s +10.434s 19

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