Mercedes Michael Schumacher upstaged Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel in a super-wet opening practice session on Friday morning in Korea - and just got away with a very off-course moment coming into the pits at the end of the session.
For the first 40 minutes nothing much happened as the rain fell and everyone waited, but then McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton did a handful of laps and set the pace with 2m 03.391s before coming back into the pits. That time would stand up as seventh best overall. Then Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi did 2m 03.182s, which would stand up for fifth, before he too came in.
Towards the end there was a flurry of activity. Vettel had a near miss with a backmarker but still went fastest on 2m 02.852s before Schumacher did 2m 02.784s to go quickest, and Vettel’s reply just fell short at 2m 02.840s. Paul di Resta was another late improver, jumping ahead of Force India team mate Adrian Sutil who had been fastest briefly. The Scot managed 2m 02.912s for third to the German’s 2m 03.141s which was fourth best.
Karun Chandhok impressed with 2m 06.350s for 11th for Lotus, ahead of Williams’ serial offroader Pastor Maldonado on 2m 06.852s, while rookie Jean-Eric Vergne looked perfectly at home and impressed greatly with 2m 07.541s for 13th. In the second Toro Rosso’s wake, Rubens Barrichello did 2m 08.218s in the second Williams to head Narain Karthikeyan who aced Daniel Ricciardo in the HRT team, 2m 08.832s to 2m 09.232s. The Virgins made brief forays, Jerome D’Ambrosio lapping his in 2m 12.658s from Timo Glock on 2m 14.508s.
Much, however, depended on when you ran, so we will get a clearer picture of the pecking order thus far this afternoon. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, Renault’s Bruno Senna and Vitaly Petrov, Lotus’s Heikki Kovalainen and McLaren’s Jenson Button did not venture out beyond installation laps.