Vettel and Massa make biggest gains so far

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Nine races into the 2013 season Sebastian Vettel has made the largest gains over the points total he had at this point last year.

Vettel has accrued more than half as many points as he’d scored after the ninth race of 2012.

But the identity of the driver to have made the next-greatest gain may be something of a surprise. Felipe Massa has had a poor run in the last four races with a series of crashes and spins. Yet he’s still amassed 34 points more than he managed during his disastrous start to last season, thanks in part to his podium finish in Spain.

Kimi Raikkonen has gained almost as many points after a strong start to the season with a win and four second places.

But Vettel’s closest challenge in the championship, Fernando Alonso, has seven points less than he’d scored by round nine of the 2012 campaign. And team mate Mark Webber is down by 23 points.

Here are the winners and losers in the championship so far:

Driver 2013 so far 2012 (nine races) Difference
Sebastian Vettel 157 100 +57
Fernando Alonso 123 129 -6
Kimi Raikkonen 116 83 +33
Lewis Hamilton 99 92 +7
Mark Webber 93 116 -23
Nico Rosberg 84 75 +9
Felipe Massa 57 23 +34
Romain Grosjean 41 61 -20
Paul di Resta 36 27 +9
Jenson Button 33 50 -17
Adrian Sutil 23 n/a n/a
Sergio Perez 16 39 -23
Jean-Eric Vergne 13 4 +9
Daniel Ricciardo 11 2 +9
Nico Hulkenberg 7 17 -10
Pastor Maldonado 0 29 -29

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.