Singapore GP - first practice
SETTING THE PACE AT MARINA BAY: Sebastian Vettel sets the pace at the Marina Bay circuit during the first free practice session.
MARINA BAY, Singapore - Defending World champion Sebastian Vettel led the way in the first free practice session for the 2012 Singapore F1 GP.
Vettel beat McLaren's Lewis Hamilton as a storm threatened the floodlit Marina Bay Circuit.
The drivers took to the demanding 23-turn street circuit two hours after a tropical downpour soaked the track with Vettel, winner in 2011, clocking the fastest lap of 1min50.566 late in the session.
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Hamilton lapped 0.049 slower than Vettel as his McLaren continued to display the pace that has carried him to two wins in the previous three races.
McLaren team mate Jenson Button was third fastest, 0.893 off the leader.
Championship leader Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was fourth, marginally ahead of Williams' Pastor Maldonado, Red Bull's Mark Webber and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg.
The 90-minute session got off to a slow start as most of the 24 drivers waited until sunset to attempt lap times as they sought to compete under lights, as they will do in qualifying and the race.
The threat of a second thunderstorm towards the end of the session was relayed to the teams and although the downpour failed to materialise the track was packed for the last 30 minutes as drivers sought to set fast times on soft tyres.
Mercedes duo Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg showed plenty of early speed as they tested an upgraded exhaust system but the pair fell away as the session progressed to finish 14th and 18th fastest respectively.
Former World champion Kimi Raikkonen (12th) and Sebastian Grosjean (15th) would also be disappointed with the performance of their cars, the Lotus duo lapping more than two seconds off the pace at a circuit where they are expected to do well.
The Marina Bay Circuit is regarded as one of the most challenging on the 20-race calendar but apart from several drivers missing the apex on the tricky turn 10 chicane, only two cars slid off the track into runoff areas in the entire session.
2012 Singapore Grand Prix:
First practice results
1 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min50.566
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min50.615
3 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min51.459
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min51.525
5 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min51.576
6 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min51.655
7 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min51.658
8 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min51.943
9 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min52.275
10 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min52.296
11 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min52.629
12 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min52.716
13 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min52.839
14 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min52.986
15 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min53.028
16 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min53.080
17 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min53.189
18 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min53.227
19 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min54.908
20 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min55.091
21 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min55.335
22 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min55.760
23 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min56.656
24 Ma Qinghua (China) HRT 1min58.053
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