Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel has set the pace in the opening practice of the Singapore Grand Prix, a race he will undoubtedly try to win for a second time in order to reignite his title defence.
The German only narrowly managed to claim top spot, beating championship rival Lewis Hamilton by less than five-hundredths of a second, with the pair almost a second clear of the rest of the field around Singapore’s twisty five-kilometre layout.
The city had been hit by heavy rain in the morning, and the circuit was still damp when the session got underway at 6:00pm local time.
More runners gradually trickled out onto the circuit to post some meaningful lap times as the track began to dry in the final half-hour – Fernando Alonso (who finished the session fourth-fastest overall) proved to be the quickest driver to post a lap time on intermediate tyres, with a 2:01.573.
The field began to switch to slick tyres after Kamui Kobayashi vaulted to the top of the timesheets, before the usual order was restored when Vettel and Hamilton began trading fastest lap times.
Jenson Button moved into third-fastest, ahead of Alonso, while the top ten was completed by Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber, Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez, who complained bitterly about his Sauber’s unstable handling.
The session was thankfully devoid of any major incidents, although a few drivers – most notably Maldonado and Romain Grosjean (back in the cockpit after his one-race ban) were among those to take trips up the circuit’s many escape roads after out-braking themselves.
Down at the bottom of the timesheets, Marussia had a more competitive showing to get Timo Glock ahead of both Caterham runners, while HRT F1 development driver Hua Qing Ma had another outing in the F112. Given his lack of familiarity with the circuit and the car, he did well to lap within two seconds of Pedro de la Rosa, although his pace is not yet indicative that the Chinese driver deserves a race seat anytime soon.
2012 Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:50.566||24|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:50.615||+ 0.049||15|
|3.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:51.459||+ 0.893||17|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:51.525||+ 0.959||20|
|5.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:51.576||+ 1.010||20|
|6.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:51.655||+ 1.089||19|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:51.658||+ 1.092||24|
|8.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:51.943||+ 1.377||21|
|9.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:52.275||+ 1.709||24|
|10.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:52.296||+ 1.730||19|
|11.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:52.629||+ 2.063||25|
|12.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:52.716||+ 2.150||16|
|13.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:52.839||+ 2.273||23|
|14.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:52.986||+ 2.420||21|
|15.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:53.028||+ 2.462||20|
|16.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:53.080||+ 2.514||17|
|17.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:53.189||+ 2.623||25|
|18.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:53.227||+ 2.661||26|
|19.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:54.908||+ 4.342||20|
|20.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:55.091||+ 4.525||16|
|21.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:55.335||+ 4.769||22|
|22.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:55.760||+ 5.194||22|
|23.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:56.656||+ 6.090||21|
|24.||Qing Hua Ma||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||1:58.053||+ 7.487||20|