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