Vettel sounds early warning for his rivals

Vettel sounds early warning for his rivals

Ace German driver sets fastest lap in free practice session

Vettel sounds early warning for his rivals

No prizes for guessing. Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest time at the end of the first two practice sessions of the third edition of the Indian Grand Prix.

Equipped with a far superior car and the kind of confidence one could only dream of, the German went about tearing down 5.125-km track sector by sector at the Buddh International Circuit on a muggy Friday afternoon.

His time during FP1 (Free Practice 1) was 1:26.683 and it seemed stunning enough as he led his team-mate Mark Webber (1:26.871) and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg (1:26.899). But as is always the case with Vettel, there is always a higher gear.

The 26-year-old clocked the only 1:25-lap (1:25.722) of the day to finish well ahead of Webber (1:26.011) and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean (1:1:26.220) in the second free practice session, showcasing the fact that the car and Vettel are more than ready to dominate the circuit.

Vettel has 297 points from 15 races and needs to finish in fifth spot or above to claim his fourth title at Red Bull. His free practice session put him in a good place to get a superior spot on the starting grid during Saturday’s qualifying.
While it was all pleasant at ‘Vettelville’, Ferrari had their usual share of troubles. A spring from their gear-box found its way out and that cost them plenty of time. Despite the dire situation, Fernando Alonso was able to cart his car around to clock a decent time of 1:26.430 during FP2, only just behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Felipe Massa too fared well after finishing seventh at the end of the second session.

A number of drivers proved their prowess with impressive runs despite their limited knowledge of the track, but quite obviously it was Vettel who stole the show.

With five successive wins and the possibility of wearing the crown egging him on, he was far ahead of the pack. He started slow and took time to adapt to the venue where he has won the past couple of races. He looked surer by the sixth lap and by lap eight he set the fastest time. Content with the gathered data, he decided to step off the accelerator for the rest of the session.

When it was time for the second session, Vettel came out with an air of superiority. He intentionally held back to see what the other drivers had to offer and when he noticed drivers going past his FP1 times, he returned to the race mode and cut his earlier best by little under a second.

Meanwhile, Force India’s season continued to look bleak as Adrian Sutil finished 12th and Paul di Resta settled for 15th at the end of the second session. Both the drivers showed plenty of promise in the initial sectors. But given that the team has stalled all upgrades ahead of the hugely transformational 2014 season, they  were unable to go faster and managed mid-range positions.

“The medium seems set to be the optimal race tyre, while the soft tyre should be the one to qualify on. The track hasn’t finished evolving yet, so the final decisions won’t be taken until after (third) free practice tomorrow,” Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery said when asked about what the team strategy should be ahead of qualifying.

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