The air temperatures in the high teens and the track outside not managing to attain whatever thing additional low 20s, it was an cloudy morning as the action began at 10am local time, with several spots of rain causing a lack of grip which saw several cars overshoot chicanes.
Deep rainfall hit the track on Thursday and the threat remains for the rest of a weekend on which no less than eight drivers tackle the challenging track for the first time. Adrian Sutil, Sebastian Vettel, Tonio Liuzzi, Robert Kubica, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg and Michel Schumacher chosen to complete two installation laps instead of the usual one although the first lap time – which came from Kobayashi’s Sauber – did not emerge until over half an hour in.
Mainly drivers struggled from a lack of grip on a circuit which, according to Heikki Kovalainen via team radio, look like a rally stage; Turn 1 and the hairpin proved the most treacherous, with the latter being the scene of a near-miss under braking between Schumacher’s Mercedes and the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
Fortunately, there were no problems of a more wild nature although a groundhog could be seen crossing the track at Turn 4 under green flag conditions, fortunately doing so with no competitors in the vicinity. With the drops of rain ensuring that the track temperature dropped, no driver was able to better Button’s leading effort of 1:18.127, although the Mercedes pilots were able to squeeze ahead of Hamilton. Sebastian Vettel and Robert Kubica led the way for Red Bull and Renault in fifth and sixth as Fernando Alonso verified himself as Ferrari’s top representative of the session, seventh quickest but six tenths down.
Second free practice session start will be 2pm race local time