F1 2012

F1’s new frontier – First day of practice ends in Austin

Sebastian Vettel showed his intention to win the 2012 Championship this weekend with a dominant display in Friday Practice to top the timesheets in both sessions. The reigning World Champion overcame a water pump problem in FP2 to end the day almost a second ahead of his nearest rival.

The German was 1.4 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton in the morning session, with Fernando Alonso trailing behind in 3rd ahead of Jenson Button. Mark Webber brought his Red Bull into 5th place, with Felipe Massa starting what ended up as a strong day for the Brazilian with 6th.

The track surface proved exceptionally ‘green’ having only been completed in recent weeks. Construction dust, plus the lack of support events to put rubber down meant several drivers, including many of the top runners, experienced some hair-raising off-track moments. The penultimate corner, turn nineteen, proved particularly challenging, although the off-camber and uphill turn one was the undoubted star of the show. Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton were two of its victims in the afternoon session.

Vettel was once again fastest when the field took to the Circuit of the Americas for FP2, although he was a paltry seven tenths faster than Mark Webber this time out. Alonso improved on his showing in the morning by jumping up to 3rd, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button separated by a hairs width in 4th and 5th. Massa continued his solid pace with 6th, but Lotus duo Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen struggled throughout the day and both men were outside the top ten in FP1, while rivals Mercedes showed some improvement from recent weekends with Nico Rosberg 7th in FP2. However,  team mate Michael Schumacher seemed to struggle with the new Austin track in what is the start of his penultimate Grand Prix weekend.

Despite significant doom-mongering prior to the teams arriving in Texas, the American Grand Prix community seems to have taken F1 to their hearts with many grandstand seats being filled.

Anthony French

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