Button leads McLaren 1-2 in first Suzuka practice
5 October 2012 – Jenson Button topped the timesheets for opening practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, leading the way from McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton. As the track bathed in glorious sunshine, Red Bull’s Mark Webber completed the top three while the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg parked up in the dying minutes.
As Valtteri Bottas drove Bruno Senna’s Williams and Giedo van der Garde stepped into the Caterham cockpit for the second time this season, it was a crucial time for Lotus which will finally race its ‘Double DRS’ device this weekend; in somewhat reserved fashion, Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean finished in 13th and 14th positions and both look forward to a massive update for Korea next weekend.
Although poor weather was out of the question, the field did have to contend with a resurfaced track stretching from Dunlop Curve to the exit of the Casio Triangle chicane, where new drainage has also been installed. Hamilton was first to post a lap time, as Webber and Sebastian Vettel realised that – with no exhaust-blown diffuser, as in 2011 – they certainly cannot navigate 130R with their DRS wide open. It was a quiet session for the German, who did not aim for a quick lap and finished up 17th.
As local hero Kamui Kobayashi finished inside the top six, championship leader Fernando Alonso was 11th but all drivers were dramatically preserving sets of tyres. For Suzuka, Pirelli’s Hard (silver markings) and Soft compounds (yellow) are in use.
Second free practice at Suzuka begins at 2pm local time (BST +8) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report