Vettel produces a champion’s comeback to finish fourth

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After suffering from problems on his car during practice and qualifying, Sebastian Vettel’s run of bad luck finally came to an end during today’s Spanish Grand Prix, as the German driver produced a quite remarkable drive to finish in fourth place.

The German driver suffered a gearbox failure during Q3 yesterday that left him 10th on the grid, and this soon became 15th after the team changed the faulty part on his car.

Off the line, Vettel made a poor start and was hit by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, but an early pit stop allowed him to run in clear air and put in some impressive lap times. With a three stop strategy, he managed to scythe his way through the field, passing Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas during the final few stages of the race to secure fourth.

“All in all I think that was the best that we could do today,” he explained. “The start was not so great and I lost a place, but then I was able to get it back towards the end of the lap. It’s always tricky when you are further back.

“Daniel drove a good race today and I think, from a team point of view, third and fourth is what we could get today.”

Once again, Mercedes dominated proceedings on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg waltzed to a one-two finish. However, for Vettel, their success is his motivation for the rest of the season.

“Mercedes is very strong,” he accepted. They have a phenomenal engine, two very good drivers, a very good car, and a very good team, they’re doing a good job so it would be wrong to complain and moan about how dominant they are – they worked better than everyone else in the winter and deserve to be in that position.

“Hopefully, from our point of view, rather sooner than later we’ll give them a hard time – that’s our motivation. I hope that in time we can catch up, and as I said start giving them a run for their money.”

The German driver will be hoping to return to the podium at the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, but with the deficit to championship leader Hamilton standing at 55 points, his grasp on the world title is already becoming loose.

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.