Turkish Grand Prix: Jenson Button fastest in practice
Jenson Button sets the pace for McLaren in Istanbul with team-mate Lewis Hamilton in third
Jenson Button was quickest at the end of Friday practice for Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul, half a second quicker than team-mate Lewis Hamilton in third, with Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg splitting the McLaren duo.
World champion Sebastian Vettel damaged his Red Bull in a crash during a wet first session, preventing him from running at all in the dry second.
It was a promising start to the weekend for Mercedes-powered teams as Michael Schumacher took fourth quickest ahead of Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Force India pair Paul di Resta (eighth) and Adrian Sutil (10th) made it a full-house for Mercedes as Vitaly Petrov took seventh for Renault, with Sauber’s Sergio Perez ninth as the top 10 were covered by 1.6 seconds.
“I’m pretty happy with how today went,” Button said. “The car’s been working reasonably well-there are always things you want to improve, but we’ve made some good progress and have a lot of useful data to go through.
“Trying to get the car to ride the bumps well into Turn 12 has been difficult, but we improved it through the session. Turn 12 is really bumpy-it’s like they put a motocross jump in there!
“And Turn Eight’s quite tough too because, depending on your balance, it can damage the front and rear tyres. It’s about getting the balance right, which we concentrated on today.
“We haven’t put everything on the car that we wanted to this weekend, which is disappointing, but we still have some useful upgrades so it’s nice to keep moving forwards.”
McLaren opted to limit their running during a wet first practice session to save wet and intermediate tyres for the rest of the weekend with more unpredictable weather to come, Button completing four laps, while Hamilton completed just one.
McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: “Lewis and Jenson felt happy with the balance of their cars, although both said that the bumps upon entry to Turn 12 were fairly severe and unsettled the car.
“We’re happy that we’ve found a good baseline for the set-up and that we can build upon it for the rest of the weekend.”
Red Bull might have done better to follow their rivals after Vettel’s crash leaves the team with plenty to do on Saturday morning if they are to continue their qualifying dominance.
“There wasn’t much I could do to stop the car from hitting the wall this morning, but the most important thing is that I’m fine,” Vettel said.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the car ready in time for this afternoon’s session, as there was too much damage.
“It makes things a bit more difficult, but I don’t think it will be a problem, we know the track well from other years and, in the end, it was only one afternoon that we have lost.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso again suffered as a hydraulics problem, leaving him 11th quickest despite topping the time-sheets in the wet.
At the bottom of the sheets, Team Lotus test driver Karun Chandhok took to the track in the first session in place of Heikki Kovalainen, but compatriot Narain Karthikeyan was quicker by 2.2 seconds having done eight laps to Chandhok’s six.
It is rare to see Hispania above the bottom two places on the time-sheets but normal service was resumed in the second session as Karthikeyan just missed out on lapping quicker than Virgin Racing’s Timo Glock.
Glock’s team-mate JerÃƒÂ´me d’Ambrosio was handed a five-place grid penalty for the race after ignoring yellow flags when Williams’ Pastor Maldonado spun at the infamous Turn Eight.
With Virgin having failed to make it out of Q1 so far this season, the Belgian rookie looks likely to start from the back of the grid.