Hamilton leads from Vettel once again in FP2

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After finishing quickest in the first practice session on Friday morning in Korea, Lewis Hamilton has continued to dominate proceedings after once again topping the timesheets in second practice at the Korean International Circuit.

However, just as he was in the first session, Hamilton was quickly tailed by two-time Korean GP winner Sebastian Vettel, whilst Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber also put in strong performances in support of their teammates. Eventually, less than two-tenths covered the top four drivers, suggesting that we could be set for a straight fight between Red Bull and Mercedes across the course of the weekend.

Hamilton went fastest at the half-way point in the session, and despite going out for his super-soft run later than the Briton, Vettel could not respond to the pace of the Mercedes W04 car as the team goes in search of its first win since the summer break.

In the final stages of the session, teams elected to undertake high-fuel runs in order to replicate conditions on race day, meaning that the times at the top failed to come under threat. This handed Hamilton – who started the 2011 race on pole position – P1 for the second time in the space of a few hours.

For Ferrari, the session was less fruitful as Felipe Massa led their charge in fifth whilst Fernando Alonso could only come home in seventh, splitting the Lotus pairing of Romain Grosjean (P6) and Kimi Raikkonen (P8). The Finn responded well from a hefty crash in FP1, and his back injury does not appear to be causing him too much grief.

Paul di Resta returned to the wheel of his Force India for second practice after reserve driver James Calado was given track time earlier on in the day. The Scottish driver ran strongly, finishing P11 and just 0.001 seconds behind teammate Adrian Sutil.

Although all of the results from practice must be taken with a pinch of salt, it appears that the advantage that Red Bull enjoyed in Singapore may have shrunk as Mercedes look to bounce back from a disappointing run of results.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.