By: Max Davies, F1 Correspondent
- Button ends up with fastest time
- Alonso quick on wet track in P1
- Vettel crashes in the rain
Exciting day at Istanbul Park
Alonso quickest as Vettel crashes in wet opening practice
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso topped the time sheets in a wet first practice for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix at Istanbul.
It was useful to do some running in the wet because there is a chance that it might rain again at some point tomorrow.
With a best time of 1m38.670s, the Spaniard lap was set on intermediate tyres during a sodden opening session that featured changeable conditions and a red flag due to an accident that befell defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Setting the second and third fastest laps, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg impressed for Mercedes, ahead of the Renault pairing of Nick Heidfeld and Vitaly Petrov.
In keeping with his spectacular style, Kamui Kobayashi finished in the Sauber, heading Felipe Massa, Toro Rosso Friday driver Daniel Ricciardo, team mate Sebastian Buemi and Friday runner Nico Hulkenburg in the Force India.
The wet conditions provided the first chance for the drivers to taste Pirelli’s wet weather tyres in actual competition status but typically, it was a long time before anyone ventured on to the track to set a competitive time.
Fears that the lifespan of the full wet tyres would drop off as quickly as their dry compounds were confirmed after half an hour with Alonso setting the first representative lap time after the half-hour mark. The Spaniard’s lap was set on the last of a five lap run and the double world champion then reported that the optimum window of performance had passed for the Pirelli tyres.
Emerging onto the circuit just after 45 minutes, mark Webber was the first to run on the intermediate rubber though his lap was only good enough for tenth, the Red Bull driver then heading back to the pits.
Weather conditions until the Australian’s emergence saw steady but light rain, though the last half hour brought heavier rain which resulted in obvious aquaplaning at the first and second turns and Turn 11 towards the back of the track.
Despite numerous radio calls over the radio attesting to the slippery conditions. Several drivers ran wide on the treacherous track which ultimately ended with Vettel’s crash. The German elected to venture onto the circuit late in the session – having opted to miss the optimum driving conditions earlier, ran wide at the infamous Turn 8 and clattered the barrier, damaging his RB7 in the process.
As a result, the red flag came out for 10 minutes leaving a mere 15 minutes for drivers to gather more valuable data in preparation for the forecasted wet race on Sunday.
Others made had similar spins yet while Paul di Resta and Schumacher managed to avoid the barriers, Williams rookie Pastor Maldonado didn’t in the last of his two spins.
Button quickest in second free practice
McLaren’s Jenson Button set the fastest lap in drier conditions in final practice for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul.
The 2009 world champion headed the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg by a mere 0.65s but largely spent the session battling with McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton who finished third on a 1m27.033s while championship leader and defending champion Sebastian Vettel was forced to sit out the entire session following his crash in first practice.
The morning rain having disappeared, the circuit was still damp by the time the session began but it quickly dried giving the drivers plenty of dry-running set up alterations that they had yet to experience.
Always competitive around the Herman Tilke-designed track, Felipe Massa was sixth fastest for Ferrari with a 1m27.959s lap, behind an impressive Michael Schumacher (1m27.063s) in the second Mercedes and Red Bull’s Mark Webber with a best time of 1m27.149s.
Seventh for Renault, Vitaly Petrov got down to competitive times quickly and his 1m27.517s lap was enough to see him ahead of Force India’s leading man Paul di Resta (1m27.725s) and the Sauber of Sergio Perez on a 1m27.844s.
Adrian Sutil rounded out the top ten for Force India with a 1m28.052s while Fernando Alonso could only manage eleventh quickest in the Ferrari on a 1m28.069s. A hydraulic problem saw the Spaniard in the garage for a large section of the session before an uncharacteristic spin at Turn 6.
Renault’s Nick Heidfeld went 13th fastest with a 1m28.475s, sandwiched between the two Toro Rosso cars of Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari, each setting times of 1m28.153s and 1m28.765s respectively.
Pastor Maldonado (1m28.828s) headed Williams team mate Rubens Barrichello (1m28.946s) in 15th despite spinning on the circuit and touching the barrier while Jarno Trulli was the leading Team Lotus driver in 17th with a fastest lap of 1m29.637, ahead of Kamui Kobayashi (1m29.637s) in the second Sauber-Ferrari.
Heikki Kovalainen was 19th in the other Team Lotus with a 1m30.281s while the rear of the field saw the Marussia Virgin pair of Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock head the Hispania’s of Narain Karthikeyan and Tonio Liuzzi.