Red Bull Racing has once again been the pacesetting team, with Sebastian Vettel leading Mark Webber to claim the squad’s umpteenth practice 1-2 in the opening session for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
The forecasted rain seemed to steer clear of the circuit – although it looks likely to hit the Sao Paulo venue tomorrow – and it was some 45 minutes into the session before the front-runners ventured on-track for some meaningful running. Once the pecking order was set, it was again the Red Bull pairing that led the way.
Vettel, Webber and Lewis Hamilton were the only drivers to post times under the 1m13s barrier, although the German was almost half a second clear of the next-best-placed Webber.
Hamilton’s McLaren team-mate Jenson Button continued to pursue a host of set-up configurations in his desperate bid to stay in the championship hunt, and the defending World Champion was fourth-quickest overall.
Fifth-quickest was the perpetually-impressive Robert Kubica, with Nico Rosberg fractionally slower in his Mercedes GP.
Behind ninth-quickest Adrian Sutil in the Force India, the Sauber pairing of Nick Heidfeld and Kamui Kobayashi completed the top eleven spots, although the Japanese driver blotted his copybook with a spin into the wall on his final hot lap.
Two notable absentees from the pointy end of the timesheets were both Ferraris, with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa posting fastest laps close to two seconds off the pace, as the Italian team continues the tradition of running high fuel loads in the opening practice sessions of the last few Grands Prix. Massa reported issued with a lack of front-end grip for much of the session.
Worryingly for Alonso, the Spaniard parked his car on the side of the circuit in the session’s closing minutes with a suspected engine problem, although the team offered assurances that it had intended to change his engine before the afternoon’s second practice session got underway.
Vitaly Petrov was left sitting in fifteenth on the timing screens, and added to the substantial repair bill he has rung up for the Renault squad by ending his practice session in the wall at the Ferradura right-hander.
The three rookie outfits occupied the last six spots of the timing pages as expected, but should be pleased to be closer to the pace of the front-running outfits. Just over three seconds adrift of Vettel, Jarno Trulli was quickest of the sextet, a quarter of a second quicker than the Virgin of Timo Glock, with Heikki Kovalainen and Jérôme D’Ambrosio following suit.
Christian Klien outpaced Bruno Senna – who is sporting a new helmet livery this weekend – by half a second on his return to the HRT cockpit.
2010 Brazilian GP Practice 1 Session Times:
[Original images via LAT]