Red Bull has lived up to the pre-race expectations of others by locking out a 1-2 in the opening practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel edging out team-mate Mark Webber for top honours by the scarcest of margins.

Friday Practice - Sebastian Vettel The defending race-winner moved to the top of the timesheets halfway through the 90-minute session, and maintained his top position for the remainder of the morning’s running, eventually lowering his best effort with a 1m32.585s, which was nearly toppled by Webber in the closing minutes.

Impressive performances from Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil earned then third- and fourth-quickest (respectively) overall, but fifth-quickest Lewis Hamilton would be left ruing lost practice time after he mangled his McLaren against the Degner Curve barriers at the session’s halfway mark.

Shortly after having his quickest lap time deposed by Red Bull’s Vettel, Hamilton ran wide entering Degner 1 and was unable to correct the error by the time Degner 2 came along, which saw the Briton slide through the small gravel trap and plough into the barriers, well and truly bending the front-left corner of his McLaren.

Hamilton's wrecked McLaren after its brush with the barriers  Friday Practice - Lewis Hamilton's wrecked McLaren is retrieved from the Degner barriers 

It was not a particularly good session for McLaren, with Hamilton’s off losing the team valuable practice time needed to assess the new aerodynamic updates it had brought along to the circuit.

Team-mate Jenson Button came oh-so-close to replicating Hamilton’s accident, having his own wild slide through the Degner gravel – and somehow avoiding the wall – with just two minutes to run. Button would end the session a lowly twelfth-quickest.

Fellow title contender Fernando Alonso had an equally anonymous session, finishing up in 13th place overall, and two places adrift of his team-mate Felipe Massa.

Meanwhile, Williams had a positive start to its weekend, with Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hülkenberg winding up sixth- and seventh-quickest overall, and Michael Schumacher had a rare moment of actually out-pacing his Mercedes GP team-mate Nico Rosberg, with the seven-time World Champion a pleasing eighth-quickest.

The Silver Arrows’ sandwiched the Sauber of Nick Heidfeld, who posted a fastest time some four-tenths quicker than team-mate – and darling of the Japanese crowds – Kamui Kobayashi.


2010 Japanese GP Practice 1 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault 1:32.585 23
2. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault + 0.048 23
3. Robert Kubica POL Renault + 0.544 23
4. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes + 1.054 13
5. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes + 1.058 9
6. Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams Cosworth + 1.092 21
7. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Williams Cosworth + 1.122 24
8. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP + 1.154 20
9. Nick Heidfeld DEU Sauber Ferrari + 1.206 23
10. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP + 1.246 9
11. Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari + 1.344 25
12. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes + 1.457 19
13. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari + 1.584 23
14. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari + 1.686 19
15. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault + 1.788 24
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Force India Mercedes + 1.794 21
17. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari + 2.406 26
18. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari + 3.099 22
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Cosworth + 4.364 25
20. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth + 4.744 17
21. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Cosworth + 4.803 23
22. Jerome D’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth + 5.193 23
23. Bruno Senna BRA HRT Cosworth + 6.229 28
24. Sakon Yamamoto JPN HRT Cosworth + 6.858 26

[Original images via GP Update]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.