Vettel takes top time off Hamilton in first practice

2012 United States Grand Prix first practice

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Sebastian Vettel led the first practice session at the Circuit of the Americas by over a second.

His final two laps were the quickest of the session, the last putting him 1.4s clear of second-placed Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton led the way for much of the session but pitted a few laps before the end reporting a loss of grip from his front-left tyre. Fernando Alonso was third fastest for Ferrari, 2.2s slower than Vettel.

Lap times improved quickly throughout the 90 minutes of practice on the slippery track. Drivers reported very little grip when the session began.

Turn 19 was the most common scene of problems with driver after driver running wide at the corner. Vettel went off there more than once and Felipe Massa was one of several other drivers to have problems at the corner.

Nico Hulkenberg had two spins in his Force India, one of them at turn one at the top of the hill.

Ma Qing Hua was the only non-race driver to participate in the session, taking over from Narain Karthikeyan at HRT. He ended the session 1.7s slower than team mate Pedro de la Rosa.

Pos.No.DriverCarBest lapGapLaps
11Sebastian VettelRed Bull-Renault1’38.12530
24Lewis HamiltonMcLaren-Mercedes1’39.5431.41828
35Fernando AlonsoFerrari1’40.3372.21229
43Jenson ButtonMcLaren-Mercedes1’40.5282.40329
52Mark WebberRed Bull-Renault1’40.6502.52530
66Felipe MassaFerrari1’40.9662.84126
712Nico HulkenbergForce India-Mercedes1’41.0232.89829
814Kamui KobayashiSauber-Ferrari1’41.0362.91128
98Nico RosbergMercedes1’41.1593.03432
1015Sergio PerezSauber-Ferrari1’41.4733.34829
1111Paul di RestaForce India-Mercedes1’41.7833.65829
1216Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso-Ferrari1’41.8253.70028
1317Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso-Ferrari1’41.8333.70829
149Kimi RaikkonenLotus-Renault1’41.8803.75523
1510Romain GrosjeanLotus-Renault1’41.9983.87327
1618Pastor MaldonadoWilliams-Renault1’42.5394.41430
177Michael SchumacherMercedes1’42.5884.46325
1825Charles PicMarussia-Cosworth1’43.2885.16323
1920Heikki KovalainenCaterham-Renault1’43.4435.31828
2021Vitaly PetrovCaterham-Renault1’43.5225.39723
2124Timo GlockMarussia-Cosworth1’44.4646.33924
2219Bruno SennaWilliams-Renault1’44.5486.42329
2322Pedro de la RosaHRT-Cosworth1’46.9178.79213
2423Ma Qing HuaHRT-Cosworth1’48.55910.43419

2012 United States Grand Prix

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    Keith Collantine
    Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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    56 comments on “Vettel takes top time off Hamilton in first practice”

    1. Races should happen on friday. Loved to watch all the drivers struggling hard in every single corner of the track…!

    2. I know it’s only first practice on a brand new circuit, but wow…hopefully this isn’t a sign of a Vettel domination to come!

      I’m impressed with the circuit, sector 1 on the first lap should be fantastic! 24 cars going through those fast, flowing corners, battling for position? Yes please!

    3. Massive gap between drivers and teams. I think we should wait much longer…

    4. Vettel was flying at the end there! Looking forward to the rest of the weekend, hopefully pole will be fought closely!

      Did anyone else notice Crofty and Anthony Davidson going on and on about how Tilke did well with this track.. when he didn’t actually design it!

      1. Yep, noticed that too…

        I don’t want H. Tilke to get the praise if it turns out the layout is great !

      2. Tilke’s contribution was the run-off areas’ design, I believe. That seemed to me what they were mostly referring to, not the course itself.

        1. @kremer I believe they also spoke about how it was great Tilke brought a sort-of turn 8 here as well..

    5. Y’all come on down! Ya’ hear!

      1. Traverse Mark Senior (@)
        16th November 2012, 18:01


    6. Any news on what updates Ferrari have bought this weekend ?

      1. multi-bladed razor like front wing. Possibly new bargeboard as well. I don’t know about rear wing.

        1. what happened to their “aggressive” approach for the last 3 races ?

          1. well, if they bring new front wing and rear wing, bargeboard, that should be called aggressive. However the problem is whether it works or not. Actually they brought same large piece of updates in Abu Dhabi as well but as you know, the gain was…not great.

          2. @aimalkhan I’m sure they’re being as aggressive as possible. Bare in mind it can take weeks to build a new front wing, most upgrades we see have been planned and in production for quite some time.

    7. I heard somewhere that Vettel did that time on options.
      Can anyone confirm or otherwise extinguish this notion?

      1. I sure hope so, the shade of the markings on his tyres were obscured by the green flowvis paint so it’s possible..

        1. Unless option tyres are green this weekend?

          1. @lemon No the tyres this weekend are hard (silver) and medium (white).

          2. @lemon Well, he might tried to see how the intermediates work in dry condition.

            1. according to this, tomorrow in Q3 we’ll see everybody on full wet tyres.

    8. The helicopter camera shooting Fernando starting his lap then sweeping down through the esses (toward the end of the session) was a fantastic shot.

      Great track overall.

    9. That should surely be an early sign that Red Bull may walk this. Alonso looks good though for yet another podium, so the championship will undoubtably go to Brazil.

    10. There’s a very logical explanation about Vettel’s lap time. He used a brand new set of option tyres (green) and probably a very low fuel load. The TV showed both Webber’s and Vettel’s car arriving at their box where you could see clearly that Vettel had the option tyres in his car while Mark was still on the harder compound.

      1. @mariano

        He used a brand new set of option tyres (green)

        I think what you saw there was a set of tyres which had been splashed with flow-vis paint. Green-sidewalled tyres are intermediates.

        1. That was my impression while he was going through the race track were you could clearly see the green marks which looked like flow-vis paint. But when he arrived to his box the exterior side of the tyres where clearly green perfectly shaped as if they were the intermediates. I might be wrong of course but that was my personal impression.

        2. Sorry, my mistake. You were aright Keith. I’ve just talked to a friend over the phone who is at the circuit and confirmed me that Vettel was using the hard compound.

          1. the shot you saw at the end, in the pitlane, the tyres where inters because as he came in they practiced a pitstop and put on inters. for that lap he definetly used hards, at most it was new ones. the gap is probably because of track evoulution. and the fact that he’s awesome

            1. Thanks for the clarification. That explains it all.

    11. There was a curious exchange between Paul di Resta and his engineer at the end of the session. Di Resta was asked repeatedly to give his feedback on the car but said he wouldn’t do it on the radio. His engineer told him to give his feedback on the radio so the rest of the team could hear and those in factory could hear too. But Di Resta would only say he had traffic:

      I’m not sure what Di Resta’s motivation for this would be, besides perhaps wanting to keep his team mate out of the loop, but perhaps there’s a less sinister explanation?

      1. Really strange. Can’t imagine any reason for Di resta’s comment.

      2. Perhaps he doesn’t want any other teams to know about how the car is handling hence keeping them in the dark until qualifying, when it’s too late to respond?

        1. I don’t know. Di Resta seems to cut a frustrated figure on the racetrack, especially when he is being outperformed by his outgoing teammate. I think it is the pressure of the British media and fans that’s getting to him, very similar to another Scot Andy Murray of tennis.

      3. Interesting!
        If he has been dumped by Force India for 2013, then that is definitely not going to be good advertisement for his prospects at other teams.
        If he is dumping Force India for another team, then he probably wants to carry information to his new team.

        Although, I feel that Mallya’s airline problems might have caught up with his racing team and he hasn’t paid Paul’s salary because of which Paul might be acting cranky.

      4. I hope Paul told him to “Seb off”. Some of these engineers seem to think they, and not the drivers, are the stars these days.

        1. @bullfrog – no individual is bigger than the team, not even the drivers.

    12. Ferrari was sandbagging…. Just before the end… Fernando set the first sector in purple and then there was a massive gap in the sencond sector…
      I guess we´ll have to wait for tomorrow to see the true pace of everyone… By the way…. I think we might have an instant “classic” on our hands! The track and the instalations look awesome!!

      I can see why the guy from texas motor speedway is worried… I can definitely see INDY cars going to COTA to race…. hehehhe

    13. So Vettel was using the hard tyres for his run? If so, that pace should be worrying (even though we don’t know fuel loads etc. obviously). He’s a good 2.5 seconds quicker than Webber as well.

      1. He’s a good 2.5 seconds quicker than Webber as well.

        That shows how little FP1 means more than anything else. Do you honestly think Vettel is actually 2.5 seconds quicker than Webber?

        1. @kingshark – as I said, obviously we have no indication of fuel loads or programmes. All I am saying is it looks to be Vettel is significantly faster than Webber, I’d say in the margin of 3/4tenths a lap by an estimate (and no more). Clearly only qualifying will tell who is quickest but the signs a suggesting Vettel has pace over Webber and indeed the rest of the field. It is too early to be drawing conclusions though.

          1. @vettel1 One dodgy alternator, and Webber wins this one…well finishes on the podium anyway…

    14. Why is there such a ridiculous gap between the teams and drivers? Excuse me for my lack of awareness since I wasn’t watching free practice today.

      1. @kingshark – I caught the end of practice and it looked to be track evolution had a noticeable effect due to this being the first time an event has taken place on COTA. I think it’s more due to who set their run when and I’m expecting to see the field close up noticeably come FP2.

      2. @kingshark It was the first session on a new track so ‘evolution’ will be high as it cleans up and the first rubber goes down.

    15. Missed the session due to being in work. Tuned in at 1 point and it was HAM/VET/ALO

      Did Vettel change tyres for a last minute assault on the time sheets? Or was that at the end of a decent length stint? (praying its the former)

      Bit more pleasing though to see Alonso 3rd although being FP1 it means absolutely nothing

      1. @aledinho… yes, Vettel’s quick laps were his 3rd and 4th laps on a new set of hards. (According to Hobbs on Speed anyway)

    16. The circuit looks great. All that artificial grass has me a bit concerned though. Hope they’ve got it glued down well!

      1. @schooner – good point, it may deter drivers form running wide possibly knowing what happened in Korea (although I doubt it)!

        1. @schooner @vettel1 I can’t see them making the same mistake to be honest. The circuit will have been recently inspected so Whiting would have anything like that under control…I hope.

          1. I hope too, turn 13 at Korea looked like a wet rugby pitch would look a.k.a destroyed!

    17. HRT best be careful, they’re well outside the 107% threshold by around 2s. I’m sure they will improve and maybe such a long lap will go in their favour (less likelihood of too much traffic) but it’s something to keep an eye on.

      Difficult to read into much else but we shouldn’t get excited by any times considering some drivers have barely even touched the circuit in a simulator.

      1. @andrewtanner – I think the gaps will probably decrease as the track rubbers in but yes that is a worrying sign for them; it doesn’t help that they have no money to develop! You never know though they might be saved by the front-runners trying to do a lap on the harder tyre in Q1.

        1. @vettel1 That’s true about the harder tyres. I fully expect they will be OK but should they have a bad qualifying they might not have the FP results to allow for a dispensation.

    18. I wonder if even SV’s time is not that impressive for now as all teams might be thinking that until the track rubbers in and they get a bit of data going nobody wants to crash out and end up virtually qualifying and racing on a track that they have barely put any laps around. I think they will take more risks in the second session as it nears it’s second half so they can compile data, and if they make a mistake they will have time to fix the car for tomorrow but will at least have gotten some useful running in today.

    19. So what do you all think of the track? I think it looks AMAZING! Some of the helicopter shots from the front straight all the way back to turn 11 looks sick. Its like a roller coaster its so up and down. On a 1-10 i would give it a 9. Whats everyone ones opinion on your favorite and least favorite part? and to keep with the post topic i think they times will pull closer together but i think vet will have them all covered

    20. Any idea about Vettel’s last sector time ? It is almost 1s better than any other driver …

    21. I’m reading nothing from any of this. First session, brand new track…

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