Lewis Hamilton has set the pace in the opening practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday morning, marking the fourth Grand Prix in succession that the Englishman has topped the timesheets in the first practice session.
The Mercedes driver clocked a fastest time of 1:34.178, three-tenths of a second quicker than teammate Nico Rosberg, with the pair leading a team 1-2 on the timesheets.
Despite forecasted storms, weather conditions remained fine for the running of the 90-minute session. After the usual phase of installation laps and the subsequent lull of on-track running, it was the Red Bull Racing pair of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel who bit the bullet with the first competitive times of the session.
Ultimately, the duo were overhauled by the two works Mercedes runners of Hamilton and Rosberg, with the former progressively lowering his benchmark rime over his run to cement top spot.
Vettel overhauled Webber to claim third place, although the German had a potentially quicker lap ruined by Paul di Resta, who exited the pit lane right in the reigning champion’s path.
The Ferrari and Lotus pairings of Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen continued the ‘Noah’s Ark’ look on the timing screens by occupying fifth to eighth positions respectively, albeit about a second off Hamilton’s ultimate pace.
Sergio Pérez was next up in ninth in the McLaren, while a late flying lap from Daniel Ricciardo provied enough to get the Australian’s Toro Rosso tenth-fastest, while also denying Jenson Button from continuing the two-by-two formation on the stopwatch.
It was a surprisingly incident-packed session, with Pastor Maldonado, Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi all forced to end their sessions early after separate incidents.
Maldonado’s progress was brought to a halt when his left-rear wheel parted company with the Williams at the Spoon Curve, while van der Garde and Bianchi both suffered separate crashes at Degner 2.
Bianchi’s accident was particularly heavy, with the Frenchman burying his Marussia into the tyre barriers in a high-speed shunt. The team has confirmed that his MR02 chassis is too badly damaged to allow him to participate in Friday’s second practice session, and with no assembled spare cars available under the current rules, the team will spend the rest of the day building up a spare chassis for him to resume running in tomorrow’s final practice session.
2013 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:34.157||19|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:34.487||+ 0.330||19|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:34.768||+ 0.611||24|
|4.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:34.787||+ 0.630||20|
|5.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:35.126||+ 0.969||14|
|6.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:35.154||+ 0.997||16|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:35.179||+ 1.022||15|
|8.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:35.364||+ 1.207||17|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:35.450||+ 1.293||27|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:35.635||+ 1.478||19|
|11.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:35.868||+ 1.711||22|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:35.900||+ 1.743||18|
|13.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:36.066||+ 1.909||20|
|14.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:36.165||+ 2.008||19|
|15.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:36.178||+ 2.021||12|
|16.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:36.340||+ 2.183||23|
|17.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:36.399||+ 2.242||18|
|18.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:36.760||+ 2.603||22|
|19.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT03||1:37.595||+ 3.438||22|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:37.629||+ 3.472||8|
|21.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:38.025||+ 3.868||15|
|22.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:38.763||+ 4.606||18|