Belfast Telegraph

Hamilton sets pace in Austin as rivals fall by wayside

By Ian Parkes

In-form Lewis Hamilton led a truncated Formula One field at the end of the first practice session ahead of this weekend's United States Grand Prix.

The build-up to the event at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin has been overshadowed by the demise of Caterham and Marussia, with buyers being sought for a rescue package.

With just 18 cars now due to start tomorrow's race, it represents the smallest F1 field since the 2005 Monaco Grand Prix.

There remains a drivers' title to be won, however, and on the back of a four-race winning run to open up a 17-point cushion to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg with three grands prix remaining, Hamilton comfortably edged FP1.

The 29-year-old posted a lap of one minute 39.941seconds, with Rosberg 0.292secs adrift, followed closely at least by Jenson Button.

With his future on the line at McLaren as his contract expires at the end of the year, Button has performed superbly of late as the car has improved considerably and been more to his liking.

The 34-year-old Briton finished 0.378secs behind compatriot Hamilton, with the trio away and clear of the rest of the field led by Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat.

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