Jenson, Lewis show practice pace

2012-10-05 07:05

SUZUKA, Japan - McLaren limbered up for the 2012 Japanese F1 GP weekend with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton 1-2 on the time sheets after Friday's first free practice in the Suzuka sunshine.

Button, 2011 winner but with a five-place grid penalty hanging over him for Sunday due to a gearbox change, lapped fastest in 1min34.507 with Hamilton 0.233 slower.


Title contender McLaren will be chasing a fifth successive pole start from qualifying on Saturday, the team's best run of qualifying form since 1999 when Finland's Mika Hakkinen chalked up five in a row.

Australian Mark Webber was third-fastest for champion team Red Bull around the classic figure-of-eight circuit in an incident-free session on one of the fastest and most demanding tracks.

Ferrari's championship leader Fernando Alonso, 29 points clear of Red Bull's double champion Sebastian Vettel, was only 11th. The Spaniard has been a model of consistency, however, and Friday practice counts for little. He has sounded relaxed in talks with reporters.

"It's a little miracle that we’re in first position," he said of the standings, referring to Ferrari's early-season lack of pace. Now the car improves... so now we seem to be able to keep the distance with more optimism. We will see what happens from now to the end.

"If we win it will be a miracle because I don't think we are fast enough - we will do the maximum. We did 14 more or less perfect races until now. We cannot make mistakes in the last six."

Vettel was 17th in the session, with 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen 13th for Lotus. The Finn is third overall despite not having won a race yet this year.

Seven-times World champion Michael Schumacher, who announced his retirement on Thursday, was fifth for what will be his farewell to Japan and right behind Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg, who will have Hamilton joining him at Mercedes in 2013, slowed and parked up at the side of the track two minutes from the end between turns three and four.

Local favourite Kamui Kobayashi was sixth fastest for Sauber.

Suzuka F1 GP first practice times:

1 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min34.507
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min34.740
3 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min34.856
4 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min35.059
5 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min35.122
6 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min35.199
7 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min35.283
8 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min35.299
9 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min35.474
10 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min35.478
11 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min35.484
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min35.584
13 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus - Renault 1min35.691
14 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault 1min35.724
15 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min36.123
16 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min36.222
17 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min36.366
18 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min36.389
19 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min37.716
20 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min38.295
21 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min38.616
22 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT 1min39.043
23 Giedo van der Garde (Netherlands) Caterham 1min39.374
24 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT 1min39.688

Stay with Wheels24 for the Japanese F1 GP weekend