Korea P1: Hamilton leads Alonso

Late lap from McLaren driver puts him ahead of Championship leader

By Mike Wise in Yeongam.   Last Updated: 12/10/12 9:54am

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Lewis Hamilton was fastest in first practice at the Korean Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

Hamilton produced a lap time of 1:39.148seconds in the closing stages to go 0.302s faster than World Championship leader Alonso.

Alonso's closest pursuer in the title race, Sebastian Vettel, ended the session fifth fastest behind the second Ferrari driver Felipe Massa.

The top 10 was completed by Mercedes pair Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Paul di Resta (Force India) and Jenson Button (McLaren).

P1 followers are probably used to a slow start but proceedings were even more cautious than normal on Friday morning at the Korea International Circuit.

The track, which is seldom used if at all between F1 visits, was covered in dust, with early runners acting as 'sweepers'.

Teams placed emphasis on performing system checks rather that set-up work. Yet although the race is the second in as many weeks to take place in the Far East, there were still upgrades on display.

While Ferrari continue to try out their new rear wing, McLaren tested new mechanical and suspension updates.

The changes were more fundamental still at both Lotus and Williams, however, with both teams giving new exhaust systems a try.

Lotus fitted their new exhaust - which, like those of all the frontrunning teams now, utilises the coanda aerodynamic effect - to the car of Kimi Raikkonen, who ended the session 11th.

Williams, meanwhile, tested their own on the car used by reserve Valtteri Bottas, who went 18th before the team elected to change back to the old exhaust.

Button set the early pace with a lap of 1:41.395s before Alonso moved above him and started chipping away at his own benchmark time.

An hour into the 90-minute session, the Spaniard had set a time of 1:39.450s, with Webber second before Hamilton moved to within 0.025s of the Ferrari driver.

With four minutes to go, however, Hamilton moved quickest of all.

Elsewhere, last weekend's hero Kamui Kobayashi ended 14th one place ahead of Sauber team-mate Sergio Perez - the Mexican running off the track more than most during the 90 minutes as he reacquainted himself.

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