October 11th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes had the best possible start to the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, setting the pace in the first practice session a fair way ahead of the Red Bulls. Nico Rosberg was second fastest, also for Mercedes, with championship leader Sebastian Vettel third.
Hamilton lapped the Suzuka circuit in 1 minute 34.157 seconds, a third of a second quicker than team-mate Rosberg and a full six tenths of a second faster than Vettel. While it's unlikely that the Mercedes is that much quicker in true pace than the Red Bull, it looks like Mercedes are set for a very strong race weekend as they seek to add to their tally of 3 race victories this season.
The Ferrari pair of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were fifth and sixth fastest in FP1, followed by the Lotus pair of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, with Grosjean outpacing his team-mate once again in practice. It seems that Raikkonen has a small upper hand in the races of late, but Grosjean has had superior practice pace for a few races.
Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.
For the FP1 session, Caterham's Charles Pic gave up his Caterham to Heikki Kovalainen, who has been assisting with Caterham's development work at various races this season. Pic will be back in the cockpit for second practice later today.
It was a busy session for the marshals, who had a few on-track incidents to clean up. Jules Bianchi was the first driver to crash, losing control of his Marussia in the second Degner corner. A little over 35 minutes later, Giedo van der Garde crashed his Caterham in the same corner, while Pastor Maldoando's Williams shed its left-rear wheel going through the Spoon curve.
Max Chilton provided the final piece of action in the session, spinning in the first corner with just a minute to go in FP1. He kept his Marussia far away from the barriers and carried on.
Free Practice 2 starts at 14:00 local time in Suzuka. In the second session, the option tyres (this weekend the medium compound) will be used for the first time, which should provide a better indication of the relative pace of Red Bull and Mercedes.
Full results from FP1:
|3||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:34.768||0.611||24|
|4||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:34.787||0.630||20|
|14||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.165||2.008||19|
|17||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:36.399||2.242||18|
|21||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:38.025||3.868||15|