Sebastian Vettel carried on where he left off in Singapore last year by claiming P1 at the end of the first free practice session at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, though he finished just five hundredths of a second ahead of McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton.
The duos’ times were almost a second clear of third-placed Jenson Button with Fernando Alonso a tenth behind the second McLaren driver.
With the circuit still drying after a heavy rain shower in the hours before the start of the first practice session the early forays of the driver were cautious affairs, mostly run on intermediate tyres. When a proper dry line finally developed it was Kamui Kobayashi who set the first real benchmark.
The Sauber driver maintained his position at the top past the session’s midpoint but then, in the final 30 minutes, Vettel and Hamilton began trading times, a duel which eventually left them well ahead of the pack when the flag fell at 7.30pm local time.
Behind the top four, Pastor Maldonado finished the session five hundredths off Alonso, with Mark Webber sixth and Nico Hulkenberg seventh. The top ten was completed by Paul Di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Pérez, the Mexican finishing 1.7 seconds adrift of Vettel’s time and complaining of very poor handling.