The opening practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix saw Heikki Kovalainen set the pace on a drying circuit for McLaren Mercedes with a best lap of 1:40.356s around the classic 5.807km Suzuka circuit.
Rain ahead of the 90-minute session saw the early runners lapping on
the full wet tyres before switching to intermediate tyres. The final minutes of running saw a dry line start to form and the lap times come down with Kovalainen moving to the top of the timesheets on the final lap of the session.
The final order and times mean little, as it was a case of being on the track at the right time ahead of practice this afternoon that is expected to be dry. Kovalainen set the pace by three-tenths of a second from Kazuki Nakajima in the leading Williams with Adrian Sutil third fastest in his Force India Mercedes. Giancarlo Fisichella
looked much more comfortable in his Ferrari as the Italian veteran recorded the fourth fastest time ahead of Sebastien Buemi in the leading Toro Rosso, Lewis Hamilton in the second McLaren, Fernando Alonso
and Kimi Raikkonen
. Rubens Barrichello
made a late gain in his Brawn Mercedes to record the ninth fastest time ahead of Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Tonio Liuzzi. Jarno Trulli
was 13th fastest in the leading Toyota with Kamui Kobayashi standing in for the unwell Timo Glock in the sister TF109.
Kobayashi did a reasonable job to post the 19th best time with Jaime Alguersuari, Robert Kubica, Nick Heidfeld
, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button
splitting the Toyota duo. Romain Grosjean was slowest of the 20 drivers in the second Renault.
The drivers will not have learned a great deal in the 90 minutes of running this morning and will be hoping for more consistent conditions this afternoon and the chance to run and evaluate the two compounds of slick tyres.