Fernando Alonso was fastest in the opening practice session at the Turkish Grand PrixFernando Alonso has kicked off his Turkish Grand Prix in positive fashion by going quickest in a rain-affected opening practice session at Istanbul, which was marked by a heavy accident for championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

Alonso’s fastest time was posted on the Pirelli intermediate tyre – which had its first wet-weather outing on a race weekend this season – and he was followed by the Mercedes GP pair of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. The Renaults of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov completed the top five places.

Until this morning’s 90 minutes of running, there hadn’t been a single wet-weather session at the Istanbul Park circuit since it debuted on the F1 calendar in 2005, and it was little surprise to see a few drivers caught out by the slippery conditions during the session.

Several yellow flags interrupted what little meaningful running could be performed, with a River running across Turn 11 – the fast right-hander leading onto the back straight – causing problems for quite a few drivers, who ran off the circuit when they ran out of adhesion.

Vettel crashed heavily at Turn 8 While lucky to escape injury, the same could not be said for his RB7 A closer look at Vettel's damaged car

But it was Vettel’s crash that was the session’s sole red-flag moment at the end of the first hour of running. Having just recovered from an off-track moment at Turn 11 on the previous lap, Vettel took too much kerbing at the exit of Turn 8, which caused him to spin to the inside crash barriers as his car suddenly speared left. The car collided hard with the Armco, and all four corners of Vettel’s car were damaged to give his mechanics plenty of work ahead of the afternoon’s running.

Having enjoyed an error-free session that saw him clock up good mileage on Pirelli’s intermediate tyres, Alonso was fastest by over a second by Nico Rosberg, although much of the gap to the rest of the field could be attributed to the fact that Alonso was one of the few to run on the intermediates when everyone else was using the full wet tyres.

Following the Mercedes GP and Renault pairings was Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber, who finished the session sixth-fastest in typically flamboyant fashion, faster than Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo, Sébastien Buemi and Nico Hülkenberg, who rounded out the top ten.

The McLarens completed little running, with Lewis Hamilton not registering a lap time in the session.

2011 Turkish Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia 1:38.670 13
2. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.402 14
3. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.462 18
4. Nick Heidfeld DEU Renault R31 + 1.668 9
5. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 1.731 10
6. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 1.751 16
7. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 2.027 14
8. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.424 18
9. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.508 22
10. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.677 16
11. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 3.894 5
12. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 3.927 7
13. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 4.855 11
14. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 5.243 5
15. Karun Chandhok IND Lotus Renault T128 + 5.316 6
16. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 6.117 20
17. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 6.284 4
18. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 6.513 15
19. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 6.567 11
20. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 9.791 8
21. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 13.006 6
22. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 17.121 13
23. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 21.996 4
24. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 no time 1

[Images via Formula1.com, LAT, and Sutton Images]

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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.