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Vettel maintains top spot in India

26 October 2012


Sebastian Vettel left no-one in any doubt that Red Bull will again be the team to beat as the F1 circus bedded down at the Buddh International Circuit in India, sweeping the day one timesheets with team-mate Mark Webber backing him up in second spot.

The German, having led the way by three-tenths in the morning's 90-minute session, repeated the feat after lunch, this time holding a slightly reduced margin over his Australian colleague as Red Bull's RB8 proved uncatchable around the second-year facility. Vettel improved his earlier mark by close to 1.5secs as the surface cleaned up, then spent the final part of the session working on his race set-up, where Red Bull again appeared competitive despite top speed being critical.

Webber, who had exchanged fastest times with his team-mate in FP1 before dropping back to fifth overall, this time matched the German blow for blow, and was rewarded with second spot, a comfortable four-tenths clear of next man Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, who lost his championship lead to Vettel at the last round in Korea, was more than half a second adrift of the Red Bull, but was still experimenting with wing combinations and running on older tyres when he set his best mark at 1min 26.820secs. The F2012, however, appeared more closely-matched on longer runs towards the end of the session, giving Alonso some hope that he may at least be able to fight for the title over the remaining four rounds rather than watching Vettel steal his way to the hat-trick.

Where Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton had both featured in the top five at the end of the morning session, second time around they were supplanted by Nico Rosberg and Kimi Raikkonen. McLaren, despite rumours that the MP4-27 may now be sporting a variation of the 'double DRS' installed on the Red Bulls since Singapore, fell away during the afternoon session, ending the day sixth and seventh on the combined timesheets, and only just squeezing in under a second adrift of Vettel.

Hamilton may have been slightly more encouraged after being told that his long run pace was good, but Alonso and Raikkonen both appeared to be ahead of the McLaren, while Rosberg was also a tenth clear of his 2013 team-mate on outright single-lap speed.

Behind Button, Nico Hulkenberg, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna rounded out the top ten, the Brazilian again showing few ill-effects of handing his car to Williams reserve Valtteri Bottas during FP1. Team-mate Pastor Maldonado was mired down in 17th spot, eight-tenths slower than Senna and with only Jean-Eric Vergne slower of the expected midfield runners.

Paul di Resta was eleventh overall, narrowly out-pacing Sergio Perez, who made a near-miraculous recovery from the 'illness' that kept him out of the #15 Sauber cockpit in the opening session. The Mexican, who appears to have been 'rested' in order for the team to evaluate potential 2013 replacement Esteban Gutierrez, ended the day comfortably 3.1secs faster than his countryman, with Kamui Kobayshi improving to 1min 28.455secs in the afternoon session, but still sitting only 16th in the charts.

Michael Schumacher was closest to Perez, with Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa also ahead of Kobayashi, The Brazilian, however, was forced to sit out the final part of the session after a series of spins left him with badly flat-spotted tyres and his Ferrari mechanics scratching their heads as they investigated a potential front end problem that may have been the cause of Massa's misdemeanours.

Heikki Kovalainen headed the third division runners, despite having also sat out the morning session in favour of Caterham reserve Giedo van der Garde. The Finn was a little under three-tenths quicker than regular team-mate Vitaly Petrov, while Pedro de la Rosa gave HRT a welcome boost by out-pacing both Marussias to claim 21st spot, albeit 1.3secs slower than the Russian. Narain Karthikeyan, racing on home soil, also got the better of one of the red-and-black machines, hauling himself off the bottom of the charts at the expense of circuit rookie Charles Pic.


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