2014 U.S. GP Practice Two: Lewis Hamilton stays narrowly ahead of Nico Rosberg
Just three thousandths separate Mercedes team-mates in Austin; Third-placed Alonso over a second slower; McLaren slip down the order; Vettel props up timesheet
By William Esler
Last Updated: 25/11/14 6:00pm
Lewis Hamilton maintained his position at the head of the field in Practice Two at the Circuit of the Americas, but his advantage was cut to just three-thousandths of a second by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
The title protagonists traded fastest times during their qualifying simulations, with the soft tyre lasting two laps and getting quicker the second time around which could impact on Saturday’s strategies. When attention switched to long-runs it was Hamilton who came out on top for the 14th time in 17 Practice Two sessions in 2015.
It wasn’t all straightforward for Mercedes, however, as both drivers reported gearbox problems with a downshift issue for Rosberg and Hamilton having an issue changing from fourth to fifth. The Briton’s session would come to an early end with the car up on its stands in the garage and mechanics working on the rear of the W05 due to a suspected hydraulic issue.
“It is a hydraulic issue,” Executive Director (Technical) Paddy Lowe told Sky Sports F1. “It is quite a small thing, we don’t know quite what yet, but it was a precautionary stop.
“Those [the gearbox issues] were unrelated. So we had two or three things going on at the same time.”
For Rosberg the gearbox issue does not seem serious, however, with his issue put down to a clumsy mistake on his part.
“I lifted my leg and hit my clutch pedal,” a sheepish Rosberg admitted. “I had an itch on my foot and can you believe of all the things that could happen. So that turned into a bit of an issue.”
As the team-mates duelled, the rest of the field were left to look on with envy at the pace of the newly-crowned World Champions with third-placed Fernando Alonso over a second slower than both of the Silver Arrows.
Practice Two is normally when teams hone their race set ups, but that task was made more difficult as the breeze picked up in Austin, leading to tricky crosswinds. "Both ends are struggling because of the wind. It is difficult to know what to do with set up," reported Jenson Button early in the session.
The 2009 champion had been within three tenths of Hamilton in the opening session, but, perhaps wind assisted, the pace of both McLaren fell away in the afternoon with Button slipping to ninth on the timesheet, just behind team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
If the MP4-29 was difficult in the wind then the Lotus E22 was a nightmare with Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado’s only appearances on camera seemingly coming as the car was spinning as the black and gold cars took to the run-off areas muliple times.
Outgoing World Champion Sebastian Vettel propped up the timesheets in 18th place as Red Bull focussed on his race pace due to his forthcoming pitlane start on Sunday. The entire powerunit will be changed on Vettel’s RB10 on Friday night, but he was still forced to miss out on track time at the start of the session due to a gearbox and rear-wing change.