October 25th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Sebastian Vettel's bid to secure his fourth World Championship this weekend got off to a perfect start, as the championship leader set the pace in the opening practice session for the Indian Grand Prix. Mark Webber was second fastest in the second Red Bull, ahead of Nico Rosberg's Mercedes and Romain Grosjean in the leading Lotus.
Vettel was fastest in every session at last year's Indian Grand Prix, and there is every reason to believe he could repeat the feat this year. Vettel is the only driver to have won the Indian Grand Prix - both years it has been held - and did so from pole position each time. Considering the formidable form of the Red Bull-Sebastian Vettel combination in recent races, it is quite likely that he could make it three out of three from pole position on Sunday.
The morning session in India started with the now customary haze hanging over the circuit. The drivers headed out on to the track for their installation laps before returning to their garages to prepare for their first timed runs.
Sergio Perez was the first driver to set timed laps. Somewhat ominously, Perez was told by his engineer on just his third timed lap to conserve his left-front tyre. That suggests that tyre wear could be in the spotlight once again this weekend. All of the drivers used only the medium tyre in FP1 - the soft option tyre will make its first appearance in FP2, when it will become apparent just how long it could last during Sunday's race. The expectations are that it will not be very long.
Paul Di Resta sat out the FP1 session, as he was not feeling well. James Calado took over his Force India for FP1 and became the second driver to spin in the session, losing the back end of the car on the way into the penultimate corner. Earlier, Pastor Maldonado spun between turns five and six, but was able to carry on without any trouble. Calado was likewise able to continue after his spin.
Behind Vettel, Webber, Rosberg and Grosjean was Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes, who was not happy with the balance of his car during the session. Jenson Button and Sergio Perez were sixth and seventh for McLaren, ahead of Felipe Massa, Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas, who completed the top ten.
Fernando Alonso's session came to a premature end when he appeared to have a gearbox failure early on the long back straight on his sixth lap. He was changing up through the gears when his rear wheels spun up, as though a gear had broken. He pulled off line, put his Ferrari into second gear and crawled back to the pits, where he remained for the rest of the session as his team inspected the gearbox.
Second practice starts at 14:00 local time this afternoon.