Sebastian Vettel overcame water leak to again set dominant pace in Practice Two
World Champion heads strong Red Bull 1-2 as rivals toil in Austin
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 17/11/12 5:01am
The German had lost the best part of an hour, and around 20 laps-worth of set-up time, after Red Bull suffered the second problem with their cars' water systems on Friday in wake of similar issues for Mark Webber in first practice.
The problem took a best part of an hour to fix but the lost time didn't appear to check Vettel's early momentum at the Circuit of the Americas as the World Championship leader swiftly resumed his position at the top of the timesheets on his return to the action when the field switched to the medium tyres.
His ultimate advantage over the chasing pack from P1 - 1.4 seconds - may have been halved but in F1 terms seven tenths of a second remained a lifetime, his benchmark lap of 1:37.718s the only only below 98 seconds around the undulating layout all day.
Red Bull don't always show their full hand on Fridays but Mark Webber's second place appeared to underline their early superiority here with both Ferrari and McLaren left trailing on the short runs.
Vettel's sole championship rival Fernando Alonso ended up ahead of the McLarens in third, but his deficit was still seven tenths, with Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button evenly matched in fourth and fifth places respectively but a full second off the pace. The later race runs, as ever, appeared much tighter however.
Felipe Massa was sixth again in the second Ferrari ahead of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes, who reverted to the Coanda exhaust on his W03, with Williams's Bruno Senna again showing well in eighth.
Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi was another driver to lose track time, through a cracked exhaust on his C31, but recovered to ninth ahead of the other Mercedes of Michael Schumacher.
The reoccurrence of Red Bull reliability concerns had provided some early drama to the session, Vettel having been called back into the pits just three laps into his first run of the afternoon.
The way he resumed his dominance on his return to the circuit, however, will surely cause some furrowed brows in the McLaren and Ferrari motorhomes overnight, with the former's Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh conceding in the later Friday press conference that it appeared his team were struggling to bring the tyres in for a qualifying run.
Vettel, and Red Bull, though appeared to have no such problems and the German admitted it was crucial the water leak hadn't scuppered his whole session.
"It was important to have two good runs still this afternoon on the medium tyre, that was very valuable," he told Sky Sports News.
"Now we try to improve the car for tomorrow."
Throughout the afternoon drivers had continued to grapple with what Ross Brawn described to Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz as a "micro smooth" track surface, with Hamilton one of several drivers to spin.
Williams, meanwhile, suffered late engine drama as the right-hand bank on Pastor Maldonado's Renault unit started emanating flames, with the Spanish GP victor swiftly told to turn off his FW34 at the top of the pit lane.