Formula 1

Rosberg and Hamilton in a league of their own after second Austin practice

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There was nothing to choose between the two Mercedes drivers at the end of second practice for the United States Grand Prix.

After leading in the morning Lewis Hamilton just held on in the afternoon producing a 1:39.085 on the soft tyres to head Nico Rosberg by just .003 of a second.

Ferrari and Red Bull started to show the expected pace as Fernando Alonso took third with Daniel Ricciardo recovering from his morning ERS issues to claim fourth but none could get within a second of the dominant Mercedes.

Mercedes battle poised

It was tit-for-tat between the two Silver Arrows for much of the session as Hamilton again led the way on the medium compound tyres, however, after the first runs on the softer rubber it was Rosberg leading the way, that was until Hamilton finally put a solid lap together to just beat his German team-mate.

In the long run, towards the end of the session, the picture was distorted slightly as both Mercedes drivers radioed gear shift issues. The issue seem to affect Hamilton worse than Rosberg, however, as the Briton's session was curtailed a little early by the problem.

Best of the rest

There is a close battle building behind for the 'best of the rest' position. With Ferrari and Red Bull finally showing the pace we expected, albeit a lot slower than the Mercedes, they head a group of 12 cars as the same second between Rosberg and Alonso, covered Alonso to Pastor Maldonado in 15th for Lotus.

McLaren slipped down from their top five positions in the morning to the bottom of the top ten with Jenson Button leading Kevin Magnussen in eighth and ninth while Daniil Kvyat also maintained his good showing in seventh for Toro Rosso.

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Williams had a mixed session as Felipe Massa was fifth while Valtteri Bottas, back in the car after Felipe Nasr drove in the morning, was only 11th, usually the Grove team tend to sandbag a little before unleashing their true speed on Saturday so where they will feature will be a story to watch.

Tyre wear an issue?

For the first time at the Circuit of the Americas Pirelli brought the soft tyres as the harder compounds in 2014 allowed for a more aggressive approach by the Italian supplier.

The gap between the two compounds was large, as has become accustom this year with the yellow-striped tyres around one-and-a-half seconds quicker than the white-marked mediums.

With the aggressive choice came the potential for higher tyre wear than in previous years and it appears to be the case with the soft Pirelli's lasting for around 15 laps before dropping off the cliff and would also suggest a two-stop strategy will be used by most during the race on Sunday.

All eyes on Mercedes

After their dominance on Friday, however, all eyes will be on Mercedes heading into the weekend.

With nothing to choose between them we could be set for our first real battle since Belgium and with no team orders now after Mercedes claimed the Constructors' championship in Sochi, quite literally anything could happen in Austin.

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