Rosberg quickest in damp first practice for US GP

Leave a comment

The United States Grand Prix weekend in Austin, Texas, kicked off in rather pedestrian style as heavy rain limited running throughout the first practice session on Friday morning, allowing Nico Rosberg to top the timesheets.

As predicted earlier this week, showers struck the Circuit of The Americas overnight and in the morning that left the track damp at the start of FP1.

Drivers headed out on the extreme wet tire early on, with Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Raffaele Marciello setting the pace before the track dried out and allowed for running on the intermediate compound.

None of the teams opted to undertake excessive running, instead preferring to complete the required car checks and installations before some gentle wet laps in the spray.

Rosberg set the pace for Mercedes, posting a fastest lap of 1:53.989 to finish 1.2 seconds clear of the field in P1, drawing first blood at COTA despite completing just a handful of laps.

Red Bull drivers Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo ran well in the damp conditions to finish second and third respectively ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. World champion-in-waiting Lewis Hamilton finished fifth overall, leading home title rival Sebastian Vettel in sixth.

McLaren used the session to get to grips with its power unit upgrades as Fernando Alonso ended FP1 in ninth place, but by finishing third in the speed trap at the end of the back straight, signs of improvement were there to see. Teammate Jenson Button – running with the Sochi-spec power unit – finished 13th.

A brake problem limited Kimi Raikkonen’s running during the session, leaving him eighth with just six laps to his name. Pastor Maldonado failed to post a time due to a gearbox issue that forced Lotus into a rebuild of his car throughout FP1.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 3pm ET on Friday.

WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

1 Comment

The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter