November 15th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel resumed his usual position at the top of the time sheets in the second free practice session for the United States Grand Prix. Mark Webber was second fastest, also for Red Bull, ahead of the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.
The stand-out performance in the session came from Heikki Kovalainen. In just his second practice session for Lotus after being drafted in at the last minute to replace Kimi Raikkonen, Kovalainen finished FP2 fifth fastest, just under two tenths faster than his team-mate, Romain Grosjean. If Kovalainen can keep up this sort of pace for the rest of the weekend, he will more than justify the Lotus team's decision to put him in the car.
FP2 saw the first appearance this weekend of the option tyre, which for the US Grand Prix is Pirelli's medium compound. Based on the lap times and some comments from Pirelli boss Paul Hembery during the session, the medium tyre appears to be around six tenths of a second quicker than the hard compound prime tyre. Both tyres are lasting well, which suggests that a one-stop strategy is likely to be employed throughout the field on Sunday.
The relatively small gap in performance between the two tyre compounds should allow the front-running teams to make it through Q1 in tomorrow's qualifying session using the prime tyres, which will help them to have fresh option tyres for Q2 and Q3. The midfield and back-marker teams will, as usual, have to use the option tyre throughout qualifying as they will need all the pace they can find.
The times in FP2 suggest that this weekend's race will be a battle between Red Bull and Mercedes, but it is unlikely to be a close battle. Red Bull have a clear advantage in long-run pace, but Mercedes are quite close over a single lap. If Mercedes can qualify a car on the front row, or if Hamilton or Rosberg can make a strong enough start, they could potentially keep the Red Bulls honest for a while on Sunday.
Sauber is showing strong pace this weekend. Esteban Gutierrez finished FP2 sixth fastest, ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg. Gutierrez in particular will be encouraged by his pace, as he looks to score points again this weekend. The young Mexican finished in the top ten in F1 for the first time at the Japanese Grand Prix three races ago.
As in FP1, the on-track drama was supplied by Marussia. This time it was Max Chilton who stopped out on track. Chilton suffered what he described to the team as a "complete brake failure" as he approached the final corner. Cameras showed his stationary car with flames licking at the brakes, which suggests that a lack of sufficient cooling could have been responsible for the brake failure.
Full results from FP2:
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.305||35|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:37.420||0.115||37|
|11||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:38.719||1.414||31|
|15||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:39.410||2.105||34|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:40.563||3.258||35|