Vettel refuses to put loss of pole down to KERS failure

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Across the course of the 2013 Formula One season, the relationship between Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel has been frosty at the best of times, with the ‘Multi 21’ fiasco at the Malaysian Grand Prix being the low point in an on-going feud between the Red Bull teammates.

However, the German driver has praised his Australian counterpart for his performance in qualifying today that saw him claim his first pole position in almost one year, and Vettel refused to put his failure to secure pole down to the KERS problem during Q3.

“First of all congratulations to Mark, I think he did a very good lap,” Vettel said. “We had an issue in qualifying, but I’m not a big fan of thinking that without this, with this, if this, you know… it’s always unknown and we’re P2. I’m happy with the result, a front row for the team is great.”

Vettel missed out on the opportunity to secure a fifth consecutive pole at Suzuka, having boasted a record that stretched right the way back to 2009. However, he was still highly complimentary about the pace of the RB9 car at Suzuka.

“The car was phenomenal today, especially in the first sector,” he said. “You realise afterwards that the car was really fantastic through there and you don’t get many days when the car feels that great and you can really push it to the limit. I enjoyed qualifying today and I’m happy with second place.”

The result sees Vettel continue his run of consecutive front-row starts the stretches right the way back to the British Grand Prix in June. With Fernando Alonso down in eighth place, the German driver will be looking to make a good start and jump ahead of his teammate and put himself in a position to win his fourth world title this weekend.

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.