Red Bull Racing made the ideal start to the Japanese Grand Prix after leading the way in the first free practice session at Suzuka, although it proved to be a session to forget for Lewis Hamilton and McLaren.
Sebastian Vettel emerged from the 90 minutes of running with the quickest time, narrowly ahead of team-mate Mark Webber, as the Red Bulls led the way, with Robert Kubica and Adrian Sutil impressing in third and fourth for Renault and Force India.
Hamilton was fifth quickest but that only told half the story for the Briton as his session ended in the barriers at Degner 2. Having got out of shape through the first part of the corner, Hamilton then slid wide across the gravel and into the tyre wall – taking off the front left wheel of the car and leaving McLaren with work to do ahead of the second practice session.
Behind Hamilton, Rubens Barrichello and Nico Hulkenberg were sixth and seventh, with Michael Schumacher, Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg completing the top ten.
The other two drivers still in contention for the title, Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, were twelfth and 13th – Button also running wide at Degner 2 but managing to keep his car out of the barriers.
Jaime Alguersuari also suffered numerous trips off track in his Toro Rosso while further down the order, Heikki Kovalainen was quickest of the three new teams for Lotus in 19th place.