Jenson Button has headed the timesheets in the opening practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix, his McLaren just edging out Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton for the fastest time overall.
It was a dramatic a tightly-fought session, with less than one-tenth of a second separating the leading trio.
However, the session was marred by yet another engine failure for Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, which has again called into question the reliability of the Ferrari V8 engine that has failed Fernando in Bahrain and Malaysia.
Thankfully, he was able to climb from the wreck unaided and seemingly uninjured.
The track conditions were very slippery at the start of the session, but conditions steadily improved over the course of its 90-minute duration. However, many drivers complained of the poor grip – brought on by the low ambient temperatures and ‘green’ nature of the circuit – and the resultant oversteer and tyre wear it created.
Of other concern was a large bump on the approach to the very fast Turn 1 – for which several drivers complained – that was responsible for front wing damage to Timo Glock’s Virgin and rear diffuser damage to Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus.
Button’s time of 1:36.677 was set midway through the session, with the McLaren driver taking full advantage of the extra top speed afforded to him by the ‘F-duct’ incorporated on his MP4-25.
It looked as though the McLarens would head to an unsurprising 1-2, but for Nico Rosberg to haul his Mercedes into contention with a great lap, just a fraction slower than the Briton.
Michael Schumacher put in a late flying lap to move up to fourth place in the closing minutes of the session, after the debris had been cleared from Buemi’s accident.
The Red Bulls were not the pacesetters as they have typically been in previous rounds, with fifth-placed Sebastian Vettel’s best time almost a second slower than Button’s best. Mark Webber finished 8th-quickest.
Renault had a promising first session, with Robert Kubica 6th and Vitaly Petrov 7th, separated by mere fractions – a particularly positive session for the Russian rookie driver.
2010 Chinese GP Practice 1 Session Times:
[Original image via AUTOSPORT]