Lewis Hamilton was fastest in opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix
Mercedes star heads team-mate Rosberg with Vettel third fastest
By Mike Wise at Suzuka. Last Updated: 11/10/13 8:47am
Lewis Hamilton once again set the early pace in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday morning.
The Mercedes driver, who was also fastest in the opening sessions at each of the last three grands prix, lapped the 5.807km Suzuka track in a time of 1:34.157s to go 0.330s quicker than team-mate Nico Rosberg.
World Champion Sebastian Vettel was third fastest ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber, with the team-by-team, driver-by-driver trend continuing down the top ten: Ferrari's Felipe Massa was next up ahead of Fernando Alonso; ditto Romain Grosjean seventh for Lotus ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.
McLaren's Sergio Perez and Jenson Button had appeared set to complete the top ten but a late lap from Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo bumped Button down a place.
Held in sunny, warm conditions, the session was, by and large, routine, although a couple of drivers - Jules Bianchi and Giedo van der Garde - were caught out by the Degner Curves.
Bianchi took no further part in the session after losing control of his Marussia in the second Degner early on. The Frenchman's car ended up in the tyre wall with its left-front wheel askew - Bianchi himself clutching his left wrist and elbow as he walked back to the pits.
Marussia said later, however, that man ended up better off than machine, with Bianchi's car unable to be repaired in time for him to take part in P2.
Van der Garde came to grief at the same corner, although the consequences for him and his Caterham appeared smaller. At almost exactly the same time, Pastor Maldonado's Williams lost its left-rear wheel further round the lap at the Spoon Curve, although he was able to return to the pits.
Maldnado ended the session 15th, one place ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who in turn was ahead of Force India's Paul di Resta. His team-mate, Adrian Sutil, was 14th.
Despite completing just eight laps, Bianchi was still able to end the session over a second faster than team-mate Max Chilton while Van der Garde wound up about 0.4s slower than Heikki Kovalainen, who once again made an appearance standing in for Charles Pic.
P2 starts at 6am BST.