Fernando Alonso was quickest in opening United States Grand Prix practice, in a bizarre session delayed because of fog and then stopped due to problems with the medical helicopter.
The Spanish Ferrari driver posted a best time of 1m38.343s to finish ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas in the Williams. Esteban Gutierrez was fourth fastest for Sauber ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg.
Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel had a low-key start to the weekend, finishing down in 18th position.
The fog caused a delay of 40 minutes because the medical helicopter could not take off, meaning the session was shortened to just an hour rather than the scheduled 90 minutes.
Button was the first man to set a time and also the fastest driver for several minutes before the action came to a halt when practice was red-flagged because of “further problems with the medical helicopter” which, as was later revealed, was not on site.
The countdown clock was restarted with 45 minutes to go, but the action could not resume as the track was still closed as teams waited for the medical helicopter to land at the circuit. Once the helicopter appeared on track, the action finally resumed with some 32 minutes on the clock.
Alonso put his Ferrari on top quickly after the action continued, the Spaniard setting a lap time of 1m38.343s that would remain unbeaten.
Kimi Raikkonen’s stand-in Heikki Kovalainen, one of the men who will have lamented the lack of running, finished in 13th position in the second Lotus.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat completed his first practice run for the team he will race for next year, the Russian posting the 17th-quickest time, winding up right behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo.
America’s Alexander Rossi, making an F1 outing in front of his home crowd, finished 19th for Caterham.
Marussia’s third driver Rodolfo Gonzalez caused the only significant on-track incident when he stopped with an apparent problem with two minutes remaining.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m38.343s 16 2. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m38.371s +0.028s 25 3. Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1m38.388s +0.045s 17 4. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1m38.532s +0.189s 18 5. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m38.657s +0.314s 21 6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m38.979s +0.636s 21 7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.005s +0.662s 17 8. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m39.083s +0.740s 17 9. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1m39.158s +0.815s 1710. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1m39.200s +0.857s 1511. Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1m39.238s +0.895s 1312. Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1m39.256s +0.913s 1713. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m39.487s +1.144s 1814. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m39.699s +1.356s 1515. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m39.836s +1.493s 1516. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m39.863s +1.520s 1917. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m40.065s +1.722s 2018. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m40.662s +2.319s 2119. Alexander Rossi Caterham-Renault 1m41.399s +3.056s 2120. Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1m41.605s +3.262s 1921. Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1m42.054s +3.711s 1922. Rodolfo Gonzalez Marussia-Cosworth 1m43.716s +5.373s 17