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Vettel and Red Bull show them the way on opening day in Austin

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Vettel and Red Bull show them the way on opening day in Austin
Nov 17, 2012, 1:46 AM

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 h...

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.

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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Series Formula 1
Drivers Sebastian Vettel Shop Now