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Friday analysis - Red Bull and Kovalainen star in Texas 15 Nov 2013

Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Heikki Kovalainen (FIN) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F138.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Charles Pic (FRA) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd18, United States Grand Prix, Practice, Austin, Texas, USA, Friday, 15 November 2013

After delays because of fog which initially prevented the medical helicopter from landing, then a red flag period because the machine developed problems, FP1 saw Alonso, Button and Bottas setting the pace. By FP2, however, it was business as usual with Red Bull leading Mercedes, and Heikki Kovalainen an impressive fifth on his Lotus debut. With Pirelli’s hard and medium tyres both showing good wear characteristics, it’s possible some teams could opt for single-stop strategies in the race. We take a team-by-team look at the early formbook in Texas…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 40.662s, P18/1m 37.305s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 39.083s, P8/1m 37.420s, P2

Neither driver had any complaints as they coped with a slippery track and set the fastest times in FP2.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.657s, P5/1m 37.785s, P3
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 38.979s, P6/1m 37.958s, P4

Hamilton was much happier with the new chassis in his MGP W04, and said it was far more consistent in its behaviour during his long runs. As usual, however, he thought there was a little more work to do in order to nail the set-up. Rosberg said he was really happy with his car’s balance and that it felt like it was running on rails. He’s very hopeful of giving Red Bull something to think about tomorrow and on Sunday.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen, 1m 39.487s, P13/1m 38.073s, P5
Romain Grosjean, 1m 39.238s, P11/1m 38.255s, P8

Kovalainen revelled in the Lotus E21 and thoroughly enjoyed his return to active F1 duty in place of Kimi Raikkonen. Neither he nor Grosjean experienced any problems, and felt they’d made a solid start to the weekend. Both ran the long-wheelbase version of the car.

Sauber
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 38.532s, P4/1m 38.229s, P6
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 39.158s, P9/1m 38.254s, P7

Once again the Sauber C32 was very competitive, and this time Gutierrez narrowly shaded Hulkenberg. The German, however, wasn’t happy with its balance on the medium Pirellis.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 38.371s, P2/1m 38.269s, P9
Sergio Perez, 1m 39.256s, P12/1m 38.941s, P13

McLaren looked very good in FP1 as Button set second fastest time, albeit without the Red Bulls really making an effort. Unfortunately, he overtook somebody after the red flag and will thus get a three-place grid penalty on Sunday. In the afternoon he struggled more for grip, but was still happier with his MP4-28’s balance than was team mate Perez.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 38.343s, P1/1m 38.461s, P10
Felipe Massa, 1m 39.005s, P7/1m 38.938s, P12

Ferrari had a bit of a puzzling day, with Alonso able to set competitive times when the track was still green, but better than it had been initially in 2012, during FP1, then unable to do so as it evolved in FP2. The Spaniard reported that his back was fine, however, after the impact it took when he ran off the road while fighting back from his last pit stop in Abu Dhabi.

Force India
Adrian Sutil, 1m 39.699s, P14/1m 38.719s, P11
Paul di Resta 1m 39.836s, P15/1m 39.410s, P15

Sutil really enjoyed his first visit to the track, but Di Resta said he had traffic on his best lap. Both believe that they have reasonable long-run pace, and are quietly confident of being able to fight for points on Sunday.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 39.863s, P16/1m 39.246s, P14
Jean-Eric Vergne (pm only), 1m 39.579s, P17
Daniil Kvyat (am only), 1m 40.065s, P17

Ricciardo and Vergne weren’t happy with the balance of the STR8, but both felt their long-run pace wasn’t bad given that. Kvyat did a very impressive job on his first run in FP1, and was very little slower than Ricciardo.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 38.388s, P3/1m 39.512s, P16
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 39.200, P10/1m 39.784s, P18

Williams looked good in FP1 with Bottas third behind Alonso and Button, but he and Maldonado struggled in the afternoon. The Finn had one type of revised floor, while the Venezuelan tried another and a revised exhaust system. The team plan to run the Bottas configuration tomorrow after Maldonado struggled for grip all through FP2.

Caterham
Charles Pic, 1m 42.054s, P21/1m 40.376s, P19
Giedo van der Garde (pm only), 1m 40.563s, P20
Alexander Rossi (am only), 1m 41.399s, P19

Both race drivers had to work through understeer initially but were happier with their cars’ balance by the end of the day, and Van der Garde said he really liked the track which he was visiting for the first time. Rossi did his best job yet in an FP1 session as he beat Pic. He too had understeer, but managed to cope with it better than the Frenchman.

Marussia
Max Chilton, 1m 41.605s, P20/1m 46.226s, P21
Jules Bianchi (pm only), 1m 47.009s, P22
Rodolfo Gonzalez (am only), 1m 43.716s, P22

Marussia had a day to forget, with Gonzalez rolling to a halt when the engine’s kill switch activated itself as the system detected a problem in FP1, and Chilton having problems with a brake disc failure in FP2. Bianchi struggled to get a decent balance in his MR02 when he took it back from Gonzalez in the afternoon.

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