Keeping the Suzuka fans happy - Jenson Button was fastest in the opening practice session at Suzuka

Jenson Button has led a McLaren 1-2 at the end of the opening practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, beating Mercedes-bound team-mate Lewis Hamilton to top spot by less than a quarter of a second.

Despite the region having had a near-miss with some super-typhoon conditions in the region, the drivers and fans were greeted with sunny conditions when the circuit opened for business.

The session saw two changes in line-up: Williams reserve Valtteri Bottas was once again clocking more practice miles in the team’s FW34 at Bruno Senna’s expense, while Caterham reserve driver Giedo van der Garde was having his first FP1 outing since the Chinese Grand Prix. The Dutch driver finished the session as the second-slowest runner.

But the recent weather made the five-kilometre circuit slow to grip up, leading to a couple of hairy moments for drivers over the course of the ninety-minute session.

Fortunately no one landed up with any damaged cars or major offs, but Nico Rosberg did bring the session to an early close – admittedly by a few seconds – when his Mercedes ground to a halt at Turn 4.

Once some serious times started to get posted at the end of the first half-hour, the McLarens were looking tough to beat. Hamilton posted the first benchmark lap of 1:37.008, and it took a while before anyone was able to get close to that time.

Mark Webber was the only driver who could get close, and he would move to the top of the timesheets with his hard-tyre run and remained quickest until the final half-hour when Button posted his session-topping effort, while Hamilton vaulted into second place.

And that’s the way the order remained, with the two Mercedes’ of Rosberg and the retiring Michael Schumacher completing the top-five, with local hero Kamui Kobayashi pleasing his fans with the sixth-fastest time of the session.

Felipe Massa looked solid in seventh, with Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado rounding out the top ten places on the timesheets.

Three of the field’s World Champions had quiet sessions. Kimi Raikkonen was thirteenth in his Lotus – armed with its new double DRS – while Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel finished down the order in eleventh and seventeenth, respectively.

Today’s second practice session gets underway at 2:00PM local time.

2012 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:34.507   20
2. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-27 1:34.740 + 0.233 26
3. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:34.856 + 0.349 24
4. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:35.059 + 0.552 18
5. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes AMG F1 W03 1:35.112 + 0.615 20
6. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C31 1:35.199 + 0.692 27
7. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:35.283 + 0.776 24
8. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:35.299 + 0.792 18
9. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM05 1:35.474 + 0.967 22
10. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW34 1:35.478 + 0.971 24
11. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F2012 1:35.484 + 0.977 26
12. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C31 1:35.584 + 1.077 24
13. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:35.691 + 1.184 22
14. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E20 1:35.724 + 1.217 21
15. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:36.123 + 1.616 19
16. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7 1:36.222 + 1.715 25
17. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB8 1:36.366 + 1.859 23
18. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW34 1:36.389 + 1.882 24
19. Timo Glock DEU Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:37.716 + 3.209 17
20. Vitaly Petrov RUS Caterham Renault CT01 1:38.295 + 3.788 23
21. Charles Pic FRA Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01 1:38.616 + 4.109 25
22. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:39.043 + 4.536 25
23. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT01 1:39.374 + 4.867 22
24. Pedro de la Rosa ESP HRTF1 Cosworth F112 1:39.688 + 5.181 19

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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.