The Ferrari’s driver Fernando Alonso completed ahead of Red Bull Racing’s drivers Webber and Vettel, who were over three tenths slower than the Spaniard.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa’s fourth top time, the Brazilian finished ahead of the McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg and Michael Schumacher completed the top 10.
The Lotus-Renault GP’s Nick Heidfeld was the first driver to complete a timed lap after 20 minutes, the German trying out the new rear-facing exhaust system introduced by the team this weekend.
The British speedy Hamilton was demoted to second place with some 52 minutes of the session to go, when Vettel outpaced him by two tenths of a second in the Red Bull. Alonso leaped to the top of the timesheets just following the one-hour mark, the Spaniard stopping the clock at 1m32.037s. The Ferrari driver improved even further on his following lap, moving into the 1m31s and outpacing Webber by over two tenths, the Australian having jumped to second.
Team-Lotus driver Karun Chandhok made his first appearance as an formal racing driver for Team Lotus, and he was 21st quickest time of the day. Narain Karthikeyan was back in action after losing his HRT seat to Daniel Ricciardo, the India replacing Tonio Liuzzi for the opening session.
The last movement yellow-flag indicated with less than a minute to go when Sebastien Buemi went off the track at high speed at Curve 5. The Swiss driver was lucky to avoid contact with anything and his car ended up stuck on the gravel.