|© AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Lewis Hamilton led the charts in the first practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, providing some early hope that Sebastian Vettel may not dominate another weekend.
In bright and sunny weather, the Briton’s time of 1 minute 34.157 seconds around the Suzuka circuit was three-tenths quicker than Rosberg and 0.611 seconds faster than Vettel, who was in third.
Mark Webber was fourth in the other Red Bull ahead of the Ferrari pair of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso and Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen.
Massa faced trouble in the first half after his car spewed smoke with a suspected exhaust issue, which confined him in the garage. The Brazilian returned to the track only within the final 30 minutes.
It wasn’t a clean practice for the others eithers. Vettel, Alonso, Raikkonen and Grosjean had lock ups with the latter even running wide at the Spoon Corner while Max Chilton spun towards the end of the session.
McLaren driver Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo of Toro Rosso rounded up the top ten, in what was an eventful practice.
Half an hour in, Jules Bianchi crashed his Marussia at the second Degner after the Frenchman lost it at the apex of the corner sliding off nose-first into the barriers marking an early end to his programme.
In the final 30 minutes, Pastor Maldonado’s left-rear wheel came off and consequently spun at the Spoon Corner. He collected his Williams and parked it further down the circuit. Moments later Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde went off at Degner 2 after he locked up into the corner.