For USGP F1 first Friday practice at Circuit of the Americas, the drivers got very little track time. Heavy fog and then a radio problem kept the Medical Helicopter from landing. After four ten-minute delays, the session started at 9:40am and was set to end at 10:30am, it's scheduled finish time. But, after nine green flag minutes, a Red Flag was displayed for further problems with the Medical Helicopter – it hadn't arrived. This required bringing in another medical helicopter, which landed and the Green Flag flew at 10:28am. The drivers ran until 11am, forty-one minutes instead of the scheduled 90 minutes.
Fernando Alonso/Ferrari was the fastest in the morning session – 1:38.343. He ran 16 laps. Second through fifth were Jenson Button/McLaren, Valtteri Bottas/Williams, Esteban Guitierrez/Sauber, and Nico Rosberg/Mercedes.
Button was penalised a drop of three grid positions for overtaking a car under the Red Flag. He said: “It wasn't a dangerous situation, and I didn't do it on purpose – the other car slowed down – but the rules are the rules, and it was the wrong thing to do.”
Three Reserve Drivers were in the session: Rodolfo Gonzalez/Marussia; Daniil Kvyat/Toro Rosso; and Alexander Rossi/Caterham. Gonzalez didn't fare that well, coming in last after off/on course manoeuvres and a kill-switch problem. Kvyat, whose name is pronounced K-Fiat, comes on board full time with Toro Rosso in 2014. Rossi ran as high as third in the first nine minutes. After the prolonged delay, he continued to run for a total of 21 laps and finished nineteenth of 22 drivers.
Heikki Kovalainen/Lotus got his first run in the car, turned 18 laps and finished thirteenth, 0.249 seconds behind his team-mate, Romain Grosjean. He stayed late to work with his crew on fine-tuning the car.
Four-time F1 World Champion, Sebastian Vettel/Red Bull Racing was only eighteenth fastest. This caused NCSN TV
commentator, David Hobbs, to opine that 'sly Sebastian was holding back trying out some new things'. Well, guess who was fastest in the second session, nearly the entire time, turning two fastest laps – yeah Vettel...
Vettel's top run in P2 was 1:37.305. He and the next eight drivers were faster than Alonso in the second session. They were Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes, Kovalainen, Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg/Sauber, Romain Grosjean and Button.
By the time the first practice ended, the sun was out in full bloom and the day warmed up quite nicely, with no threat of rain. And the forecast is for even more heat on Saturday and Sunday.
The second F1 practice at least ran its allotted 90 minutes, but it wasn't without its moments. There was a rash of off/on course moves by multiple drivers. The spin-off location of choice seemed to be between Turns 19 and 20. A marshal from T19 said the cars were coming into the corner 'scary fast.'