Sebastian Vettel completed a clean sweep of fastest times on the opening day of the 2013 Indian Grand Prix, setting himself up as favourite, not only to maintain his unbeaten record at Buddh International, but also to claim a fourth successive world title.
Having comfortably topped the morning session from his team-mate, Vettel repeated the feat in the second 90-minute outing, again heading Mark Webber in a Red Bull 1-2. With the track gaining grip, despite still being dusty, the German improved to 1min 25.722secs to maintain a near three-tenth advantage over the rest of the field.
Red Bull was not without its problems, however, with Vettel suffering a recurrence of a KERS problem in the opening part of the session and a later brake issue, while both drivers encountered the same sort of tyre wear issues on the softer of the two Pirelli compounds that bedevilled many of their rivals. Despite that, the Milton Keynes team was still around half a second clear of everyone else – potentially without Vettel restored to full power- with Lotus' Romain Grosjean providing the closest opposition in third spot.
The Frenchman again drove with a mix of aggression and control, breaking into the top three ahead of both Mercedes cars – which took fourth and sixth in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg respectively – and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who bounced back from the gearbox woes which curtailed his FP1 after only six laps. Unsurprisingly, all bar Jean-Eric Vergne improved their times second time around, with Alonso vaulting from twelfth to fifth as he posted a 1min 26.430secs lap.
Ferrari also filled seventh spot with Felipe Massa, while Kimi Raikkonen transformed 18th into eighth despite also running into tyre problems. The top ten was completed by the two McLarens, which were pushed back into more realistic positions from the lofty sixth and seventh they enjoyed in the morning.
Toro Rosso and Force India both appeared to make gains second time around, with Daniel Ricciardo and Adrian Sutil next up, demoting Valtteri Bottas to a still creditable 13th overall. It was not all encouraging for the Williams team, however, as Pastor Maldonado ran into problems with a loose wheel for the second event in a row. Although there was no repeat of the lost wheel that saw Williams receive a visit from the FIA at Suzuka, the wheel nut clearly departed from the FW35, prompting concerns over the team's retention system.
Maldonado ended the session 16th in the table, having had to park up in the pit-lane entry, separated from his team-mate by Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta, the Scot having returned to the cockpit after illness forced Force India to run James Calado first time around.
Calado, despite not driving when the circuit was its best, remained 21st fastest of the 23 drivers to see action on the day, ahead of both Charles Pic and Max Chilton, who brought up the rear of the field.