Vettel leads the way after opening practice

Sebastian Vettel was fastest in opening practice ahead of Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion was barely faster than Lewis Hamilton with the leading duo comfortably ahead of Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso and a resurgent Pastor Maldonado.

The Williams driver has struggled since winning in Barcelona but was in positive spirits ahead of this weekend when he claimed it offered his best chance of a good result since Spain.

With the session run in difficult conditions, a heavy shower an hour before FP1 left the track damp in patches, Maldonado was on the pace throughout the 90 minutes. His trademark bravery was on show throughout and with his Williams dancing from corner to corner he looks like a potential dark horse again this weekend.

Mark Webber, sporting a special helmet design for this weekend, was sixth fastest ahead of the Force India’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.

Webber seemed unwilling to push his car to the limit for most of the session and drove well within himself as he ensured that he would not have a costly accident. The entire field did a very good job of avoiding accident with a handful of drivers using the escape roads the only real drama of the session.

It could have been different however for Kimi Raikkonen. In the early stages of the session the Finn touched a patch of water and had to take to the run off area at turn one. When he looked to rejoin the track however he bounced over the kerbs and landed hard on the front of the car.

It would have been little surprise to see the Lotus suffer from some suspension problems or other damage but Raikkonen was able to continue without issue. He would finish the session 12th. His teammate, Romain Grosjean, returned to his cockpit this weekend following his one race ban for causing the startline crash at Spa.

The Frenchman kept a low profile throughout and was 15th fastest by the conclusion of the 90 minute session.

It was another disappointing session for Felipe Massa. The under pressure Brazilian was 16th fastest and did little to help his cause as he looks to gain a contract extension from Ferrari.

After finishing fourth in Italy, and having some strong races from mid season onwards, Massa knows that it is crucial for him to maintain this momentum if he is to keep his seat.

Sergio Perez has been heavily linked to replace Massa and while the Mexican denied that he has had talks with the team it is clear that his stock continues to rise while Massa’s is suffering.

The conditions made it difficult to make judgements from this session but the speed of Vettel and Hamilton will surely have given their rivals pause for thought.

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