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Sebastian Vettel could not be knocked off the top spot on Friday, recovering from a water leak to lead Mark Webber in a Red Bull one-two. The debut of Austin’s Circuit of the Americas marked the first F1 visit to America for over five years, as Fernando Alonso ended the day seven tenths of a second slower than his title rival.
Having already topped the opening session which began his 100th Grand Prix weekend, Vettel appeared to hit trouble as Red Bull mechanics repaired his problem in the pits. This transpired to be all but a minor blip en route to his session-topping effort of 1:37.718, edging out his own team-mate and looking somewhat ominous for the rest of the weekend.
F1 last visited the United States with the Indianapolis race of 2007, but the title is yet to be decided in the country since Keke Rosberg picked up the crown in Las Vegas 30 years ago. Whether or not Vettel does the honours this weekend remains to be seen but, should he win the race, the crown will be his if Alonso finishes fifth or lower for Ferrari.
The shiny new surface continued to catch out various drivers, including Vettel, and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was one driver to suffer a spin. Turn 1 is proving to be a popular hunting ground for fans, but it is Turn 19 where most cars have run wide. In the latest session, Jean-Éric Vergne and Heikki Kovalainen made contact which left the Toro Rosso with a broken front wing as the Caterham driver – not realising his issue before he reached the pit lane entry – was forced to complete an entire lap with a punctured Option tyre.
At the tail end of the field, HRT ran a shorter programme than usual as rumours circulated the paddock that the Spanish team – currently up for sale for a second time – has been running old components. In Thursday’s press conference, Pedro de la Rosa firmly dismissed the gossip; he finished 23rd, ahead of Narain Karthikeyan who had jettisoned his car this morning for reserve driver Ma Qing Hua. In 19th spot, Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham was fastest of those cars from the three newest teams, but one second behind Paul di Resta’s Force India.
No driver is expected to discover an idea car setup before qualifying, with this brand-new track adopting parts of established F1 circuits such as Silverstone and Hockenheim. Although fuel loads remain unknown, it is unlikely that the gap to Vettel will be closed up rapidly
Third and final practice commences at 9am local time (GMT -6) on Saturday and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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|1.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:37.718||17|
|2.||M. Webber||Red Bull||01:38.475||36|
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