Yeongam: Formula One world championship leader Mark Webber topped the times in second practice for the Korean Grand Prix at the Yeongam circuit on Friday.
The 34-year-old Australian, driving for Red Bull Racing, set his session-best time of 1 minute 37.942 seconds with 19 minutes of the 90-minute session remaining.
Webber leads the title chase by 14 points after 16 rounds of the 19-race season, with Grands Prix in Brazil and Abu Dhabi to follow this weekend’s inaugural race in Korea.
Spaniard Fernando Alonso, second to Webber in the championship, was 0.190secs adrift of the Australian in Friday afternoon practice in second place for Ferrari.
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton (McLaren), Poland’s Robert Kubica (Renault) and Hamilton’s teammate and compatriot Jenson Button rounded out the top five.
Webber’s Red Bull teammate, German Sebastian Vettel, was seventh, 1.2secs behind the championship leader.
Circuit conditions at the new Yeongam circuit, being used for the first time this weekend, improved significantly over the 90-minute session, with Alonso taking the early advantage after 15 minutes.
Vettel was the first driver to use the softer Bridgestone tyres to his advantage, his lap of 1:39.204 at the halfway stage of the session eight-tenths of a second faster than the rest of the field.
Alonso reclaimed first place with 24 minutes remaining for Ferrari, but Webber, after spinning at Turn 12 on his first attempt to beat the Spaniard’s time, took control with his session-best lap soon after.
Button was the only late improver in the session after being stranded in the pits for more than 30 minutes with an overheating exhaust. The defending world champion rejoined the fray with 10 minutes remaining, improving from 15th to fifth in the latter stages.
The practice session was halted for six minutes after half an hour had elapsed following a spin by Japan’s Sakon Yamamoto at Turn 16.
The Hispania Racing Team driver stalled his car and was stranded in the middle of the circuit on the entry to Turn 17, the final right-hander that leads the drivers past the pit-lane entry and onto the start-finish straight. Yamamoto finished the session in 23rd place in the 24-car field.
A third and final practice session will take place at Yeongam on Saturday morning ahead of afternoon qualifying for round 16 of the 19-race season.