Texas: Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel stamped his mark on proceedings as the first free practice session at the Circuit of The Americas drew to a close in the crisp morning air of Texas on Friday.
Lewis Hamilton had set the pace throughout for McLaren, finding grip on a surface that was still very green, and seemed to have set the benchmark with a lap of 1m 39.543s, but then Vettel banged in a 1m 38.692s and followed that up immediately as the chequered flag fell with 1m 38.125s.
It was a great start for the German, and for the new home of the US Grand Prix, which has drawn a sizable crowd for a Friday.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso chased Hamilton enthusiastically all morning, taking third place with 1m 40.337s from Jenson Button on 1m 40.528s in the other McLaren, Red Bull’s Mark Webber on 1m 40.650s and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa on 1m 40.966s.
Nico Hulkenberg was a promising seventh for Force India on 1m 41.023s despite being the first man to spin here, closely pursued by Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi on 1m 41.036s, Nico Rosberg on 1m 41.159s for Mercedes and Sauber’s Sergio Perez on 1m 41.473s. The Mexican naturally has a big following here.
Behind them, Paul di Resta was 11th in the second Force India on 1m 41.783s from the very closely matched Toro Rossos of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne on 1m 41.825s and 1m 41.833s respectively. Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean just played themselves in without trying overly hard for times, with 1m 41.880s and 1m 41.998s apiece in their Lotuses.
Pastor Maldonado was 16th for Williams on 1m 42.539s ahead of Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher on 1m 42.588s, while Charles Pic made a big impression with 18th fastest 1m 43.288s for Marussia which put him ahead of the Caterhams of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov on 1m 43.443s and 1m 43.522s. Kovalainen was another spinner. Timo Glock was next with 1m 44.464s in the second Marussia ahead of Bruno Senna who recorded 1m 44.548s for Williams, as Pedro de la Rosa and Friday stand-in Ma Qing Hua brought up the rear for HRT with 1m 46.917s and 1m 48.559s.
As the track rubbers in, the times are certain to fall and close up in FP2.