Sebastian Vettel has again topped the time-sheets in Texas, but this time with a lot less of a gap than he had in FP1 and FP2.
Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi were the first out on track for an installation lap before they ducked back into the pitlane, allowing Kimi Raikkonen to set the first timed lap. Jean-Eric Vergne, Michael Schumacher and then Nico Rosberg followed the Finn’s example, all setting new fastest laps on a cold circuit.
Arguably, there is really no point in having a practice session at 9am in Austin.The heat difference between FP1 and FP2 on the friday meant that teams were getting different results and so the difference between FP3 and Qualifying will be massive. The drivers weren’t enjoying themselves either. A cold track means less grip and drivers such as Fernando Alonso got caught out regularly into the extremely tricky Turn 19.
20 minutes into the session, a very strange incident happened. Sergio Perez, who has been an awful driver since signing his deal with McLaren, cut the corner in the double S’s and drove straight into the Marussia of Charles Pic, spinning them both. Perez doing what he likes to do most threw up his hand in complaint, although he is completely to blame for it.
It’s been a bad weekend for Sergio so far with him being handed a reprimand for blocking the other Marussia of Timo Glock during FP2. However, for some reason the stewards decided not to penalise him. It must be because 40% of people in the Grandstand are Mexican.
While the two drivers returned to the pits, the drivers continued on until just 15 minutes later, Vergne had another peculiar incident. While driving through the double S’s, his suspension seemed to just buckle in the car, sending the Toro Rosso onto the grass, where he had to pull over. The Yellow Flag fluttered for a full eight minutes while they moved the car, much to the frustration of Felipe Massa who was told to stay out on track and put laps in, despite having to lift off the gas every time he passed the stranded Toro Rosso.
The yellow flags eventually turned green and the drivers went all out with just 15 minutes to go. Everyone except Grosjean that is, whose car was being stripped apart in the garage with a suspected gearbox failure. This will be bad news for the Frenchman if they have to change his gearbox, as he will start 5 place back from where he qualified on the grid.
Just when Hamilton was at the top of the timesheets and it looked like we could be looking at a true battle, Vettel put on a nice new pair of option tires and immediately set a new fastest lap. He went a full one second up on Hamilton in P2. Oh dear.
But all was not lost. Other drivers took option tires out too and on their last flying lap tried to get as close to Vettel as possible. Maldonado was briefly P2 before Hamilton robbed the place, just 0.2 seconds behind Vettel while Alonso slotted into P4, despite having a big off at T19.
Vettel’s lead has been taken from 1.4 in FP1 to 0.7 in FP2 to o.2 in FP3, so hopefully we are looking at a true showdown in Texas.