Alonso tops disrupted opening practice at Austin for Ferrari

Fernando Alonso gave a boost to Ferrari’s hopes of a strong weekend in Austin as he topped a disrupted opening practice session for the United States Grand Prix.

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It was a bizarre practice session, which was shortened to just an hour after an initial 30 minutes delay, caused by a blanket of fog which covered the Circuit of the Americas.

Heikki Kovalainen, standing in for Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus was the first man out once the session officially began, the Finn desperate to maximise his time on track and to build up an understanding of the unknown E21.

However, with just 15 minutes gone, the on-track action was brought to a standstill once again by a bizarre red flag, which was shown due to an issue involving the circuit’s medical helicopter.

With the main medical helicopter unable to fly, a replacement was sought, with the session delayed until another helicopter could arrive.

The sound of spinning rotor blades signalled the arrival of a back-up helicopter, and so with only 32 minutes remaining, the session finally got under-way once again, and with all of the teams desperate to complete some running all 22 cars headed straight out onto the circuit.

The two McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, who had both set their times before the red flag was shown, topped the timing sheets initially in this final period of the session, before Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas, Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber all posted quicker laps.

Alonso’s time of 1:38.343 would stand as the best lap of the session, somewhat surprisingly ahead of Jenson Button and Valteri Bottas, who impressed in second and third, less than a tenth down on the Spaniard.

Esteban Gutierrez was fourth overall for Sauber, ahead of the two Mercedes’ of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Heikki Kovalainen ended the session in 13th on his first outing for Lotus, just two tenths off his team-mate Romain Grosjean in 11th, completing 18 laps of running.

Daniil Kvyat impressed on his first free practice appearance for Toro Rosso, two tenths down on Daniel Ricciardo, the man he is to replace at the Faneza-based squad in 2014.

Sebastian Vettel had an anonymous first practice, ending up in 18th, his laptime of 1:40.662 some 2.3 seconds down on Alonso’s session topping time.

Alexander Rossi finished FP1 in 19th in his guest appearance at his home Grand Prix, ahead of his team-mate Charles Pic and the two Marussias.

Free Practice One – Classification:

1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari – 1:38.343 – 16 laps
2. Jenson Button, McLaren – 1:38.371 +0.028 – 25 laps
3. Valtteri Bottas, Williams – 1:38.388 +0.045 – 17 laps
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber – 1:38.532 +0.189 – 18 laps
5. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes – 1:38.657 +0.314 – 21 laps
6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes – 1:38.979 +0.636 – 21 laps
7. Felipe Massa, Ferrari – 1:39.005 +0.662 – 16 laps
8. Mark Webber, Red Bull – 1:39.083 +0.740 – 17 laps
9. Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber – 1:39.158 +0.815 – 17 laps
10. Pastor Maldonado, Williams – 1:39.200 +0.857 – 15 laps
11. Romain Grosjean, Lotus – 1:39.238 +0.895 – 13 laps
12. Sergio Perez, McLaren – 1:39.256 +0.913 – 17 laps
13. Heikki Kovalainen, Lotus – 1:39.487 +1.144 – 18 laps
14. Adrian Sutil, Force India – 1:39.699 +1.356 – 15 laps
15. Paul di Resta, Force India – 1:39.836 +1.493 – 15 laps
16. Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso – 1:39.863 +1.520 – 19 laps
17. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso – 1:40.065 +1.722 – 20 laps
18. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull – 1:40.662 +2.319 – 20 laps
19. Alexander Rossi, Caterham – 1:41.399 +3.056 – 21 laps
20. Max Chilton Marussia, – 1:41.605 +3.262 – 19 laps
21. Charles Pic, Caterham – 1:42.054 +3.711 – 19 laps
22. Rodolfo Gonzalez, Marussia – 1:43.716 +5.373 – 17 laps

Image courtesy of Pirelli Media

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