Lewis Hamilton set the early pace in opening practice for the Korean GP
Vettel right behind after late lap as Raikkonen crashes out
By Mike Wise in Yeongam. Last Updated: 04/10/13 8:02am
Lewis Hamilton set the pace in opening practice for the Korean Grand Prix ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber on Friday morning.
The Mercedes driver lapped the 5.615km Korean International Circuit in a time of 1:39.630s to go 0.039s faster than the defending World Champion, with Webber about a tenth slower than his Red Bull team-mate.
Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg was fourth fastest ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso. Then came Lotus pair Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen, although it turned out to be a session to forget for the Finn after he crashed in the closing moments.
Heading through the fast final kink at Turn 17, Raikkonen lost control of his car, which was damaged both front and rear in the ensuing shunt. "I hit the wall," was the matter-of-fact assessment from the 2007 World Champion, who suffered back pain at the last race in Singapore two weeks ago.
Raikkonen was not the only driver to leave a circuit which is hardly, if at all, used aside from this race. Hamilton and James Calado, who took over Paul di Resta's Force India for the session, also suffered spins as the green track rubbered in.
Another to fall foul of the conditions was Rodolfo Gonzalez. In for Jules Bianchi, the Marussia reserve was the first to sample the dusty conditions but five laps into his run, the Venezuelan lost control exiting Turn 12 and wiped the nose off his car.
Repairs were soon being made in the Marussia garage and Gonzalez eventually returned, although he ended the session over seven seconds off Hamilton's pace and almost three seconds slower than team-mate Max Chilton.
Calado, meanwhile, wound up 18th overall about 1.5s slower than his team-mate Adrian Sutil.
Elsewhere, Massa's running was limited to just 13 laps, with the Brazilian suffering an early puncture. He made his return to the fray with about 20 minutes left, by which time the top times appeared fairly settled.
Raikkonen's crash aside, however, there was still a little more action to come. Hamilton and Webber had been the only drivers to dip below the 1:40s mark but Vettel joined them in the closing moments with a 1:39.667s lap on considerably older tyres.
Second practice starts at 6am BST.