Jenson Button was fastest in the first practice session at Suzuka 

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 Vettel slithers into the Degner barriers 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:

Driver Team Time Laps
1. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 1:33.634 20
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 0.091 18
3. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.456 22
4. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 0.738 24
5. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.792 25
6. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 1.303 23
7. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 1.951 27
8. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 1.956 25
9. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 2.399 22
10. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 2.736 18
11. Bruno Senna BRZ Renault R31 + 2.853 18
12. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 3.066 21
13. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 3.314 24
14. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 3.315 22
15. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 3.469 29
16. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 4.563 18
17. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 4.697 11
18. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 4.812 8
19. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Renault T128 + 5.534 10
20. Karun Chandhok IND Lotus Renault T128 + 6.312 22
21. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 7.238 13
22. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 7.385 24
23. Daniel Ricciardo AUS HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 7.472 25
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 + 8.141 25

[Image via FOM]

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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.