Hamilton sets pace in Austin

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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In-form Lewis Hamilton led a truncated Formula One field at the end of the first practice session ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

The build-up to the event at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin has been overshadowed by the demise of Caterham and Marussia.

Within the past week the two cash-strapped teams have been forced to enter into administration, with buyers being sought for a rescue package.

To ease the burden, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has afforded both marques dispensation to miss the race in Texas and next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

With just 18 cars now due to start Sunday’s race, it represents the smallest F1 field since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.

There remains a drivers’ title to be won, however, with no surprises come the culmination of the opening 90-minute session at a track that has become a firm favourite with all the drivers.

On the back of a four-race winning run to open up a 17-point cushion to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg with three grands prix remaining, Hamilton comfortably edged FP1.

The 29-year-old posted a lap of one minute 39.941seconds, with Rosberg 0.292secs adrift, followed closely by Jenson Button.

With his future on the line at McLaren as his contract expires at the end of the year, Button has performed superbly of late as the car has improved considerably and been more to his liking.

The 34-year-old Briton finished 0.378secs behind compatriot Hamilton, with the trio away and clear of the rest of the field led by Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat, who was just under a second adrift.

Button’s team-mate Kevin Magnussen was 1.046secs off the pace, with Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull sixth and seventh on the timesheet.

It remains to be seen whether Red Bull will completely replace the power unit in Vettel’s car as they currently push the final system of his allotted five of the year to its limit.

A sixth change of every component will result in a pit lane start, and if that is the case Vettel is unlikely to compete in qualifying.

Williams’ test driver Felipe Nasr, standing in for Valtteri Bottas, was 1.6secs down in eighth, followed by Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and 17-year-old Max Verstappen for Toro Rosso.

The Dutch teenager was again impressive on his second outing in F1 ahead of his debut campaign next season.

With no Marussia or Caterham, it was left to Lotus’ Romain Grosjean to prop up the standings, with the Frenchman nearly 3.5secs off of Hamilton.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, suffered a problem with the ERS (energy recovery store) in his Red Bull that resulted in him completing just five laps and finishing 17th.

Published: Friday 31st October 2014 by The News Editor

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