Lewis Hamilton put his troubles to one side and led teammate Jenson Button in a McLaren one-two in a wet practice for the team’s 700th Formula One race at the Korean Grand Prix yesterday.
The 2008 world champion, who has been questioning his performances after five straight races without a podium finish, lapped a wet Yeongam circuit with a best time of 1 minute: 50.828 seconds in the afternoon.
Button, winner of the previous race in Japan and chasing his sixth successive appearance on the podium, was 0.104 seconds slower in the second session.
“I’m really struggling to get heat in the front tires,” said 2009 champion Button, whose style is notably smoother than his more aggressively steering teammate.
Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher lived up to his fame as a master of wet conditions with the fastest time of 2 minues, 2.784 seconds in the opening session.
Red Bull’s newly crowned double world champion Sebastian Vettel, back on track for the first time since he clinched the title in Japan, was second and third respectively in the sessions.
Hamilton’s time will have boosted his spirits after Button was quicker in all three practice sessions in Japan.
The Briton told reporters earlier that he felt he had fallen off “quite a steep cliff” since he last won in Germany in July.
Six drivers, including Button, did not set timed laps in the morning as the rain fell steadily and made track conditions treacherous.
Even Schumacher’s sure touch failed him momentarily when he skidded off onto the grass at the pit lane entry.
There were more spins and slides in the afternoon, with Schumacher’s teammate Nico Rosberg running wide braking into the tight left-handed first corner and spearing into Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso as the Spaniard exited the pit lane.
The accident revived driver concern about the position of the exit.
With the grandstand largely empty and conditions resembling those on race day a year ago when the start had to be delayed, the few fans venturing to the track about 320km to the south of Seoul saw little action until after lunch.
Young French test driver Jean-Eric Vergne took part in practice with Toro Rosso, while Indians Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, both hoping to race in their home grand prix later this month, turned out for HRT and Team Lotus respectively.