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Lewis Hamilton has set the pace in opening practice for the Korean Grand Prix, leading the way at Yeongam from Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber. In an all-dry session, the McLaren man posted the quickest time on what was his 23rd lap with the Soft compound tyre. Kimi Räikkönen ran the new Lotus exhausts.
Already fastest when the chequered flag flew, Hamilton proceeded to lower the best effort to 1:39.148 which edged out championship leader Alonso by three tenths of a second. Behind Webber, Felipe Massa – fresh from his podium finish in Japan – was fourth ahead of 2011 winner Sebastian Vettel.
Although there were no weather-related issues, the Korea International Circuit is barely used over the course of the year and so a ‘green’ track is always a challenge. The field also took time to adapt to several small changes, including the flattening of the kerbs at the rapid final corner which leads to the finish line.
At Lotus, the Enstone team elected to a run a back-to-back comparison of its exhaust configurations. Räikkönen trialled the new Coandă-style system, which sees the exit gases directed upwards before they curve back down towards the diffuser. Comparisons are now being made with the more conventional design on Romain Grosjean’s car, with the pair having finished eighth and 11th on the timesheets.
There were no significant incidents on-track but a handful of situations in the pit lane. Williams compared a different engine cover and floor on the car of reserve driver Valtteri Bottas, electing to remain with their standard versions. Timo Glock surveyed proceedings from the pit wall while Marussia changed his steering rack. At the end of the session at Sauber, Sergio Pérez’s tyres were particularly worn even though the Mexican had not completed as many laps as some of his rivals.
The second Korean practice session will take place at 2pm local time (BST +8) and can also be followed through the interactive GPUpdate.net Live Report
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