Sebastian Vettel issued an early warning that he is in no mood to let up on his recent run of success after topping the timesheets in the opening practice session for this weekend's Indian Grand Prix.
While McLaren team-mates Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button took turns to lead the way early in the 90-minute session, Vettel eventually emerged on top by three-tenths over the latter after posting a 1min 27.619secs effort right at the end. Hamilton, however, was on an equally fast lap when he decided to pit and could have matched the German. The Briton eventually ended the morning in fourth spot, behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who fitted both front and rear wing developments towards the end of the session, squeezing between the McLarens with a time of 1min 28.044secs and edging his former team-mate by just 0.002secs.
Mark Webber also took a turn at the top of the times in an incident-free session, but was restricted to fifth at the chequered flag, half a second off Vettel's pace but comfortably ahead of Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa, the final drivers within a second of Vettel's pace. Michael Schumacher, Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top ten.
Valtteri Bottas did another competent job in place of Bruno Senna, taking eleventh spot a handful of tenths off the Lotus ahead of him, but the real attention in the second half of the field was focused on Esteban Gutierrez, the GP2 race winner drafted in to replace an apparently unwell Sergio Perez at Sauber. The younger Mexican, making his debut on a grand prix weekend, was naturally a little rough around the edges, and clearly still exploring the limits of the C31 as he lapped 3.5secs off the pace, and 1.4secs off team-mate Kamui Kobayashi. Whether he remains in the #15 machine during the afternoon remains to be seen - Sauber's announcement stated that he would take part in the opening session, while Perez did not appear too unwell when pictured on the pit-wall....
Paul di Resta split Bottas and Kobayashi in twelfth spot, with Force India team-mate Nico Hulkenberg right on the Sauber's tail. Romain Grosjean was equally matched in 15th, with Pastor Maldonado heading Jean-Eric Vergne, Vitaly Petrov and Giedo van der Garde - in for Heikki Kovalainen - ahead of Gutierrez at the foot of the top 20.