Vettel clocks best time; Webber comes tantalisingly close

Sebastian Vettel clocked the fastest times in the two practice sessions on Friday to make it abundantly clear that he and his RB9 were in top condition and that the 2013 Indian Grand Prix was his to lose.

In the first session, the Red Bull driver whipped up a frenetic pace in his fourth lap that yielded 1:29.251s over the 5.14 km-long Buddh International Circuit, even as the other drivers appeared to gasp for power.

Three laps later, Vettel, who seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his drive on what looked like a perfectly top-washed track, belted out another quick one, 1:26.683s, which proved to be invincible even though his teammate Mark Webber (1:26.871s) came tantalisingly close.

In the afternoon, with the track temperature touching 39 degrees celsius, Vettel was a second quicker, his time of 1:25.722s overwhelming the field.

On a day when Red Bull stole the thunder in the two practice sessions. Romain Grosjean of Lotus showed plenty of grit to reel in some inspiring laps in both the sessions. He was fourth in the morning session and third in the afternoon. “That was a good start to the weekend. The car feels good and we made progress through the day to make it better. It’s still a struggle to find grip here which can make things interesting as you find the limits, but the pace of our car relative to our rivals looks quite good.

“I’m hopeful of another solid day tomorrow (Saturday) which should give us another strong qualifying position if the evidence of today is anything to go by.

“We’ll do everything we can to take the fight to Red Bull,” said the Frenchman, who finished third behind Vettel and Webber in the previous race in Japan.

Meanwhile, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes shimmered on and off in conditions in which quite a few drivers were hampered by front tyre wear.

“We made good progress over the two practice sessions today. This morning wasn’t so good but we completed a lot of laps this afternoon.

“It’s difficult to get the set-up right here and this circuit is pretty tough on the tyres, so I think everyone was struggling with the soft compound,” said Hamilton, who finished fourth in the afternoon practice.

His teammate Rosberg was even more direct. “That was quite a tough day for us: we learned a lot but still have a lot of work ahead tonight so that I can find the best set-up. Generally, it seems that the main question this weekend is who can get third position behind the two Red Bulls, because they look pretty unstoppable at this circuit.

“But I’m confident we will have a role to play in that battle tomorrow and on Sunday,” said the German, who was third in the morning practice but floundered in the afternoon to finish sixth.

The day’s practice runs were largely tumultuous with quite a few drivers struggling for pace and traction — they either spun off the track or missed the apex of curves by a few feet!

Williams fined €60,000

The Williams team, which released Pastor Maldonado in an unsafe condition that led to the wheel fastener coming apart in second free practice, was fined €60,000.

Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen was also fined €400 for speeding in the pit lane.

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