Jenson Button has led a McLaren 1-2 in opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, with the 2009 champion out-pacing team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just a tenth of a second at the Suzuka Circuit.
The major talking point of the session was the news that World Champion-in-waiting Sebastian Vettel is, in fact, human: the German ended his session in the Degner barriers trying to improve his time in the closing minutes of the session.
The recently re-signed Button was the quickest driver for much of the ninety-minute session, which was held in sunny and bright conditions. The Briton’s fastest lap, a 1:33.634, was clocked in the dying minutes of the session, outpacing Hamilton to the tune of just 0.091 seconds.
Three reserve drivers were in action, with Nico Hülkenberg driving Adrian Sutil’s Force India as Karun Chandhok and Narain Karthikeyan replaced Heikki Kovalainen and Vitantonio Liuzzi at Lotus and HRT, respectively.
Vettel’s crash came as a result of taking too much speed into Degner 1 and running wide as he approached Degner 2; the German slide gently through the gravel trap and nudged the barriers, no doubt damaging his pride rather more than his Red Bull RB7.
Fourth-fastest was the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who was pursued by Mark Webber, Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, Felipe Massa and the second Toro Rosso of Sébastien Buemi. Michael Schumacher was ninth-fastest, while Vitaly Petrov was tenth-quickest in the Renault, one spot ahead of team-mate Bruno Senna.
Pastor Maldonado was the first driver to bring attention to himself when he ran across the grass exiting The Esses before pulling off the track at the following Dunlop Curve; it is not yet known whether the excursion caused the problem, or the reverse.
At Virgin Racing, Timo Glock was forced to spend some time on the sidelines as a gear box oil leak was seen to by his mechanics.
2011 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||1:33.634||20|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-26||+ 0.091||18|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.456||22|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 0.738||24|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Renault RB7||+ 0.792||25|
|6.||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 1.303||23|
|7.||Felipe Massa||Ferrari F150° Italia||+ 1.951||27|
|8.||Sébastien Buemi||Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6||+ 1.956||25|
|9.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP W02||+ 2.399||22|
|10.||Vitaly Petrov||Renault R31||+ 2.736||18|
|11.||Bruno Senna||Renault R31||+ 2.853||18|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 3.066||21|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 3.314||24|
|14.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM04||+ 3.315||22|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C30||+ 3.469||29|
|16.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP W02||+ 4.563||18|
|17.||Rubens Barrichello||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 4.697||11|
|18.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Cosworth FW33||+ 4.812||8|
|19.||Jarno Trulli||Lotus Renault T128||+ 5.534||10|
|20.||Karun Chandhok||Lotus Renault T128||+ 6.312||22|
|21.||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 7.238||13|
|22.||Jérôme d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02||+ 7.385||24|
|23.||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 7.472||25|
|24.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT F1 Cosworth F111||+ 8.141||25|
[Image via FOM]
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