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Red Bull Racing led the field in the first day's practice for the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam today, with Sebastian Vettel edging out Mark Webber by three hundredths of a second. The form-book makes difficult reading as Ferrari and McLaren were also on the pace at the top along with RBR in both sessions.
In conditions that were dry and warmer than the previous two editions of the event, it was Lewis Hamilton who went quickest in the morning 90-minute period, after Alonso had led for much of the session. The Briton's 1:39.148 effort overshadowed the Ferrari by three tenths, Alonso coming in at 1:39.450. Webber was third on the timesheet with a lap of 1:39.575. Felipe Massa was a strong fourth in continuation of his fine form since in Japan, heading the Mercedes' of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. Romain Grosjean in the Lotus, Force India's Paul di Resta and Jenson Button driving the McLaren made up the rest of the top 10.
Friday stand-in drivers Jules Bianchi (Force India), Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Geido van der Garde (Caterham) and Dani Clos (HRT) managed 13th, 18th, 21st and 24th respectively, all slower than their sister cars.
All teams ran the Pirelli softs, the harder of two tyre compounds in first practice. Oddly, drivers struggled to match their times from early in the session towards the end when the track should have been faster due to rubbering in on the racing line.
In the second session, it was Red Bull all the way at the top, with Vettel and Webber having a good scrap to get the better of each other. The German prevailed with a late lap of 1:38.832, narrowly ahead of Webber's 1:38.864. Alonso was three tenths down in third at 1:39.160. Button improved on his morning effort in fourth, ahead of Schumacher and Massa. Rosberg, Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg in his first session for Force India and Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus rounded off the top ten. Notably, Hamilton's fastest lap was set on the slower Soft compound tyres, while the rest of the frontrunner's times were achieved on the red-walled super-soft rubber in the last third of the session.
Although Reb Bull were ahead on one-lap pace, Ferrari and McLaren were stronger in their race simulations, indicating a close fight come Sunday. Ferrari, who have tended to have better race pace than qualifying, appeared to make efforts to be more competitive in qualifying trim. Mercedes are also in the midst among the top 5.
Lotus evaluated their new 'Coanda' exhaust on Raikkonen's car, and the team has indicated it intends to keep the new configuration for the rest of the weekend.
Among the drivers who went off the track in the afternoon included Sergio Perez in the Sauber, who eventually stopped on track due to an actuator problem on his C31, losing an hour of running. Bruno Senna had a spin, and teammate Pastor Maldonado had an off as well. Michael Schumacher was issued a reprimand for an incident with Pedro de la Rosa where the 7-time champion blocked the HRT while attempting to show his displeasure at being impeded by the Spanish veteran.
- 14/10/2012 12:49 - Supreme Vettel triumphs in Korea to lead the Championship; Webber and Alonso complete the podium
- 13/10/2012 11:43 - Webber beats Vettel to pole in battle of the Red Bulls in Korea
- 13/10/2012 09:17 - Sublime Vettel leaves rivals trailing in his wake at Korea; McLaren duo exhibit strong pace