October 4th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap time in the first practice session for Sunday's Korean Grand Prix, lapping the Yeongam circuit in 1 minute 39.630 seconds. Hamilton was just a few hundredths of a second faster than Sebastian Vettel, who was followed by the second Red Bull of Mark Webber in third place.
It's the third race in a row at which Hamilton has been fastest in third practice. However, at the last two events in Italy and Singapore, Hamilton was unable to match the pace of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull as soon as the option tyres came into play, which is normally during the second practice session. Today's FP2 session will therefore provide a key indication of the relative pace of the Mercedes and Red Bull cars.
Aside from the Korean Grand Prix, the Yeongam circuit is not used very much, which means the track surface is quite dirty and slippery early in the weekend. Quite a few drivers were caught out by the lack of grip in FP1, including fastest man Hamilton, who spun at turn 10 around 50 minutes into the session. The first driver to hit the wall, however, was Marussia's Rodolfo Gonzalez, who was driving Jules Bianchi's car in FP1. Gonzalez lost control on the exit of turn 13 and spun into the opposite wall, damaging the nose of the Marussia, but managed to recover to the pits.
The other driver who was doing Friday practice duty was Force India's James Calado, who took over Paul di Resta's car for the session. Calado also had a spin during the session, but managed to keep his car out of the wall.
The big crash of the session came courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen, who lost the back end of his Lotus in the final corner and hit the pit wall hard. The impact was sufficient to cause significant damage to both axles of the Lotus and take the nose off the car as well. Raikkonen appeared to be unhurt, and jumped out of the car quite quickly before walking up the pitlane back to his team. Considering that the Finn has had back problems recently that caused him some trouble at the Singapore Grand Prix, it was a relief to see him walking comfortably after his accident.
The usual suspects - Mercedes, Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari - made up most of the top ten in the FP1 session, and they were joined not too surprisingly by the McLarens of Jenson Button and Sergio Perez. What was surprising, however, was the pace of Button, who set the fifth fastest time, just over half a second off the pace of Hamilton. McLaren have looked much happier in the second half of the season after struggling for pace at the beginning of the year, and will no doubt be looking to score strong points again this weekend.
A feature of the Yeongam circuit that has proven problematic in previous years is the pit exit, which fed drivers right into the action in turn 1 as soo as they left the pit lane. For this year's race, the pit lane exit now feeds around the outside of turn 1 through the run off area and takes the drivers back onto the track on the exit of turn 2. So far there have been some complaints of bumpiness on the pit exit from the drivers, but it seems to be a better solution than what was previously used.
Second practice will follow at 2pm local time.
Full results from FP1:
|2||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.667||0.037||20|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:39.816||0.186||19|
|12||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||1:41.432||1.802||18|
|18||14||James Calado||Force India-Mercedes||1:43.008||3.378||21|
|20||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:43.883||4.253||19|