Vettel back on top in Texas

Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:06pm EST
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By Steve Keating

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel's bid for a record eighth straight Formula One race win of the season picked up speed on Friday with the Red Bull driver fastest in free practice for the U.S. Grand Prix.

After sitting near the bottom of the timing sheets in a foggy and chaotic opening practice session, the 26-year-old German sizzled under the blazing afternoon Texas sun and lapped the Circuit of the Americas with a best time of one minute 37.305 seconds.

"The circuit was quite slippery today; I was happy with the car but you always know you can improve here and there," Vettel told reporters. "I think we got through the program, we were able to test some things, some were good and some not so good, but we will see.

"Ferrari looked quick this morning and McLaren could be a surprise here and Lotus and Mercedes will be strong as normal."

Vettel, who won his fourth successive title in India last month and now has 11 wins this year, was 0.115 seconds faster than Australian team mate Mark Webber who cemented the Red Bull one-two.

No driver has ever won eight races in a row in a single season, but Vettel equaled Michael Schumacher's seven earlier this month in Abu Dhabi and is favorite to win again this weekend.

The two Red Bulls were followed by the two Mercedes drivers with Germany's Nico Rosberg third and Britain's Lewis Hamilton, winner of the inaugural race in Austin last year with McLaren, ready for another strong weekend in fourth.

"This track and city are just such a beautiful place to be racing," said Hamilton. "It was a pretty straightforward day although we still have some work to do to nail the set-up because it's not quite there yet.   Continued...

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany drives during the first practice session of the Austin F1 Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Mike Stone