SETTING THE PACE: Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton sets the fastest time during the first practice for the 2014 US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Image: AP/ Darron Cummings
AUSTIN, Texas - Championship leader Lewis Hamilton laid down a marker on Friday (Oct 31) after leading title rival team mate Nico Rosberg in a familiar Mercedes one-two in first practice for the 2014 US Grand Prix.
Hamilton, chasing his fifth win in a row and 10th of the season, lapped with a best time of one minute 39.941 seconds on a gusty but bright morning at the undulating Circuit of the Americas.
Rosberg was 0.292 seconds slower than McLaren's Jenson Button third fastest in a session of just 18 cars after Caterham and Marussia went into administration and failed to make the journey.
THREE RACES LEFT
Hamilton leads Rosberg by 17 points with 100 still to be won, thanks to double points in the Abu Dhabi finale, in the three races remaining.
Mercedes, who have already wrapped up the Constructors' title, can equal McLaren's 1988 record - set by Alain Prost and the late Ayrton Senna - of 10 one-two finishes in a season in Sunday's (Nov 2) race.
There were only 16 races back in those days, however, compared to the current 19.
Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat, who graduates to the main Red Bull team in 2014 in place of departing four times champion Sebastian Vettel, was fourth fastest ahead of Kevin Magnussen in the other McLaren.
Vettel is set to start Sunday's race from the pits lane after exceeding his allocation of power units, and the talk before the race was that he would skip Saturday's (Oct 2) qualifying to save the engine.
‘WE HAVE TO BE CAREFUL’
However Red Bull principal Christian Horner assured the fans that Vettel, who was seventh fastest on Friday morning, would be appearing.
Horner said: "We'll certainly be taking part in qualifying but we have to be very careful with our mileage, he has to get through three race weekends with this unit."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, still keeping everyone guessing about his future plans, was sixth fastest.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, the only man other than the Mercedes drivers to have won this season, suffered a power unit problem that limited his track time and left him 17th.
Williams' reserve Felipe Massa completed 19 laps in the car Valtteri Bottas will race on Sunday (Nov 2) and was eighth fastest while Toro Rosso gave teenager Max Verstappen a another session ahead of his race debut in 2015.
Verstappen was 10th fastest.
The session ended with drivers trialling a new 'virtual safety car' system, being tested as a means of reducing speeds electronically across the field when yellow flags are waved without introducing the real vehicle.
The system is being looked at following Jules Bianchi's horrific 2014 Japanese Grand Prix crash. The Marussia driver remains critical in hospital a month on.
2014 United States Grand Prix:
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min39.941
2 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min40.233
3 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min40.319
4 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso 1min40.887
5 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren 1min40.987
6 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min41.065
7 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min41.463
8 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Williams 1min41.545
9 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min41.722
10 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 1min41.785
11 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min41.907
12 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min41.965
13 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 1min42.329
14 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Sauber 1min42.333
15 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 1min42.359
16 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber 1min42.516
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull 1min42.598
18 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min43.229
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2014 US grand prix weekend.