Vettel leads the way at COTA

Champion elect rises to the top in US Grand Prix FP2

After being an uncharacteristic 18th fastest in FP1, Sebastian Vettel stamped his authority on proceedings during afternoon practice at the Circuit of the Americas. He was quickest in the opening exchanges on the hard tyre and then again when the field switched to the medium compound.

Mark Webber pushed his Red Bull team-mate hard, finishing the session just 0.115 down, and well clear of the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, third and fourth respectively. Another good session for late-replacement Lotus driver Heikki Kovalainen saw him listed fifth on the timesheet, ahead of Sauber, for whom Esteban Gutiérrez was sixth and Nico Hülkenberg seventh. Romain Grosjean was eighth in the other Lotus, Jenson Button ninth for McLaren and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso completed the top ten.

After a disrupted morning session the afternoon passed without incident. With track temperatures hitting 31°C under blue skies, Kovalainen was the first man out of the garage, waiting at the end of the pitlane for the light to go green, keen to maximise his practice time in the unfamiliar Lotus E21. Vettel was a few minutes behind but went to the top of the order with his first flying lap and a time of 1:38.352. He subsequently improved to 1:38.211, narrowly ahead of Webber.

Gutiérrez and Caterham’s Charles Pic were the first runners to sample the medium tyre, leaving the pitlane shortly before the half hour mark. Neither could match Vettel’s hard tyre time but the world champion was pushed down the order as faster cars appeared on the mediums. Rosberg briefly held top spot before being replaced by Webber. Vettel finally appeared on medium rubber as the halfway point approached. He initially failed to improve on his earlier time, hitting traffic on his early laps but his tyres still had enough life in them for him to move back to the top as soon as he found clean air. His ultimate lap of 1:37.305 was a tenth better than that managed by his team-mate.

As is customary, the second half of the session was largely devoted to heavily-fuelled long runs. Marussia’s Max Chilton stopped at the last corner, briefly bringing out the yellow flags in the closing minutes but otherwise the session was completed without drama.

2013 United States Grand Prix Free Practice Two times

1  Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:37.305
2  Mark Webber Red Bull Racing 1:37.420  +0.115
3  Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.785  +0.480
4  Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.958  +0.653
5  Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:38.073  +0.768
6  Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber 1:38.229  +0.924
7  Nico Hülkenberg Sauber 1:38.254  +0.949
8  Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:38.255  +0.950
9  Jenson Button McLaren 1:38.269  +0.964
10  Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:38.461  +1.156
11  Adrian Sutil Force India 1:38.719  +1.414
12  Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:38.938  +1.633
13  Sergio Pérez McLaren 1:38.941  +1.636
14  Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:39.246  +1.941
15  Paul di Resta Force India 1:39.410  +2.105
16  Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:39.512  +2.207
17  Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:39.579  +2.274
18  Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:39.784  +2.479
19  Charles Pic Caterham 1:40.376  +3.071
20  Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:40.563  +3.258
21  Max Chilton Marussia 1:46.226  +8.921
22  Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:47.009  +9.704