Korean GP: Second practice
CHARGING BULLS IN KOREA: Sebastian Vettel aims for his fourth win of the 2012 season at the Korean Grand Prix.
YEONGAM, South Korea - Sebastian Vettel led a Red Bull 1-2 after second free practice for a 2012 South Korean Grand Prix that could send the Formula 1 World champion back into the overall lead for the first time since the fifth round.
Vettel, four points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with five races remaining, set the fastest lap of 1min38.832 and team mate Mark Webber was a mere 0.032 slower after being third fastest in the first session.
TITLE DUEL ON
Alonso was third quickest in the second session, 0.328 off Vettel's pace but with a more competitive-looking Ferrari.
McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had kept Alonso off the top in the morning with a best effort of 1min9.148. Hamilton, 2008 champion, was eighth-fastest on the dusty circuit 400km south of Seoul.
Hamilton needs to deny Vettel, the 2011 winner in Korea, a third win in a row to get back into a title fight that looks increasingly like a duel between Alonso and the Red Bull champion.
Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen, absent from the first two Korean GP's due to his switch to rallying, had his first taste of the circuit and was 11th and 10th respectively in the two sessions. Raikkonen was trying out a new "Coanda" exhaust system that his team hoped would bring big benefits in the closing races in the battle with Ferrari for third place in the Constructors' standings.
With the circuit little used for most of 2012, drivers took their time setting fast laps when the first session opened. Alonso, who was pitched out at the start of th 2012 Japanese GP, was an early pacesetter with Hamilton faster towards the finish.
McLaren's Jenson Button, 10th and fourth-fastest, said: "Monza for the first 45 seconds of the lap, then a mid-high-speed section, quite flowing, and then you've got driving around your living room at the end of your lap."
Sauber's Sergio Perez, who will join Button at McLaren in 2013 as Hamilton's replacement, stopped on the track in the afternoon after the halfway mark in the session. Sauber said it was an actuator problem and the engine was not damaged.
Valtteri Bottas took Williams' Bruno Senna's place for the first session while reserve driver Jules Bianchi came in for Nico Hulkenberg at Force India and was 13th.
Other less-familiar faces for the morning were Dutch tester Giedo van der Garde for Russian Vitaly Petrov at Caterham and Spaniard Dani Clos replacing race regular Narain Karthikeyan at HRT.
Stay with Wheels24 for the Korean F1 GP weekend
Second practice session from the 2012 Korean GP
1. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min38.832
2 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min38.864
3 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min39.160
4 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min39.219
5 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min39.330
6 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min39.422
7 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min39.584
8 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min39.717
9 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min39.739
10 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min39.839
11 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min39.957
12 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min40.089
13 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India - Mercedes 1min40.112
14 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min40.445
15 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min40.745
16 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min40.789
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min40.997
18 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min41.200
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min41.602
20 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min42.596
21 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min43.066
22 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min43.067
23 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min43.869
24 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min44.533
First free practice session
1 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min39.148sec
2 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min39.450
3 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min39.575
4 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min39.854
5 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min40.088
6 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min40.221
7 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min40.396
8 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min40.422
9 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min40.440
10 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min40.480
11 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min40.929
12 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min41.048
13 Jules Bianchi (France) Force India 1min41.140
14 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min41.220
15 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min41.514
16 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min41.596
17 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min42.021
18 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min42.027
19 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min42.104
20 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min42.175
21 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min42.706
22Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham 1min42.820
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min44.517
24 Dani Clos (Spain) HRT 1min45.735