Practice One - Kovalainen frustrates the fans in Japan 02 Oct 2009
McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen disappointed the fans who braved the rain at Suzuka on Friday morning, by pipping local hero Kazuki Nakajima in the dying seconds of opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.
The session began on a very wet track which became less wet but never came close to drying out fully.
Kovalainen set the pace initially before McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton took over when conditions were at their worst. Renaults Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel later had turns at the top as things improved, then Hamilton was ahead briefly before Nakajima took over for Williams. He was in turn supplanted by Kovalainen with 20 minutes to go, before Adrian Sutil had a spell up top for Force India. Hamilton displaced him before Sebastien Buemi briefly popped up for Toro Rosso and was in turn beaten by Nakajima. The Japanese driver seemed to have settled the issue with his best lap of 1m 40.648s, until Kovalainen popped in 1m 40.356s literally in the dying seconds.
Behind them, Sutils 1m 40.806s held up for third ahead of late improved Giancarlo Fisichella in the lead Ferrari with 1m 40.985s.
Buemi's 1m 41.421s left him fifth for Toro Rosso ahead of Hamilton's 1m 40.443s, Alonsos 1m 41.532s, Kimi Raikkonen's 1m 41.577s in the second Ferrari and Rubens Barrichello's 1m 41.821s for Brawn.
Clearly, much depended upon when you ran.
Nico Rosberg was 10th in the second Williams on 1m 42.188s, chased by Red Bull's Mark Webber (1m 42.332s), Force India's Tonio Liuzzi (1m 42.475s), Jarno Trulli in the first Toyota (1m 42.657s), Toro Rosso's Jaime Alguersuari (1m 42.667s), the BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica (1m 42.833s) and Nick Heidfeld (1m 42.977s), Vettel (1m 43.218s), Brawn's Jenson Button (1m 43.318s), rookie Kamui Kobayashi (standing in for an unwell Timo Glock at Toyota on 1m 43.407s) and Renault's Romain Grosjean (1m 43.572s).
Considering the conditions it was surprising that there were so few incidents. Raikkonen went off at the chicane, while Alonso, Alguersuari and Fisichella all exceeded the limit of grip at the hairpin.