Horner: Webber would have done the same

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Christian Horner has defended Sebastian Vettel’s overtake of Mark Webber in the Malaysian Grand Prix, claiming that the Australian driver would have made the same move had the roles been reversed.

“If Mark Webber had been in that position… we have seen him do the same. Let’s not kid ourselves that this is something unique to Sebastian,” Horner told the Daily Mail.

“He is a race driver, a fiercely competitive individual. You don’t win 27 Grands Prix and three world championships without being a very driven individual.”

Horner had previously called Vettel’s move “silly”, refusing to take the side of either driver. However, following criticism from many members of the paddock, Horner has spoken out to defend triple-champion Vettel, but he did admit that it is impossible to control his drivers on track.

“At times you do not have control of them, as much as you would like to. All you rely on is that they respect each other, the team and the equipment.”

Regardless, Horner believes that Vettel and Webber can still work together well, and repair their relationship in order to prevent Red Bull’s championship challenge being negatively affected.

“They have won three constructors’ championships for the team. As a pairing they have been one of the most successful in Formula One history.

“In three months you go from winning a double world championship in Austin and Brazil, then suddenly it is a drama and a crisis despite a one-two finish in the second grand prix.”

Horner’s comments will only fuel the rumors that Webber could be set to leave Red Bull at the end of the season, backing up his claim on the podium that Vettel has “protection.”

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.