Caterham to use Toyota’s wind tunnel in Germany

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As part of a busy day yesterday that included the revelation of its 2014 driver pairing and its owner, Tony Fernandes, threatening to leave Formula One if he doesn’t start seeing better results on the track, Caterham also revealed the move of their wind tunnel program to the Toyota Motorsports facility in Cologne, Germany.

“The [Toyota] facility allows us to run at 60 percent scale, more than the 50 percent scale we have been using to date, and that has obvious benefits in increasing the accuracy of the data generated in the tunnel,” team principal Cyril Abiteboul said during yesterday’s “media day” at Caterham’s headquarters in Leafield, England.

After finishing last in the 2013 constructor’s championship, Caterham can use any sort of advantage it can get as it tries not only to beat fellow backmarker Marussia but to finally score World Championship points in its fifth season of competition.

Toyota’s Cologne facility actually has two wind tunnels that each boast a steel belt rolling road capable of reaching speeds of 70 meters per second. The facility was the heart of Toyota’s former Formula One team, which competed from 2002 to 2009, and currently serves as the base of its World Endurance Championship team, Toyota Hybrid Racing.

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.