Webber fastest in opening Singapore practice

Singapore:Mark Webber left it late to lead the way in opening free practice for the Singapore Grand Prix on Friday, the Australian championship leader clocking the fastest time in the dying seconds of the 90-minute session.

The first action of the race weekend took place on a drying track following a mid-afternoon downpour with a majority of the leading teams waiting for conditions to improve before completing timed laps around the floodlit Marina Bay street circuit.

Webber clocked 1 minute 54.589 seconds in his Red Bull to edge out Michael Schumacher by 0.119 seconds as the seven-time world champion headed a trio of Germans around the tight and demanding course.

Force India`s Adrian Sutil recorded a third fastest time of 1:54.827 while Webber`s team mate Sebastian Vettel completed 12 laps of work in fourth place with a 1:55.137.

"Unlike others, (Webber and Vettel) don`t need to do a whole lot of laps around here to learn the track so e are just waiting for conditions to improve a little bit more," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said in a television interview.

"I think all the teams have brought something a bit new here this weekend, we have done likewise. "

"It`s going to be interesting to see how that pans out and the different challenges. This circuit is fairly unique... it`s going to be fascinating to see whose cars and drivers suit this circuit."

Last season`s winner Lewis Hamilton, second in the standings and five points behind Webber, arrived in Singapore with a host of upgrades on his McLaren and only completed nine laps before finishing the session down in 18th place.

The Briton`s team mate and reigning world champion Jenson Button showed far more speed to clock the sixth fastest time, 0.744 seconds off the pace and just behind Jaime Alguersuari`s Toro Rosso.

"We`ve got a range of upgrades here (and) we can see that Red Bull`s got a new rear wing here, everyone is pushing hard," McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said.

"This is a fantastic championship campaign and frankly Ferrari, Red Bull and ourselves can all win."

"The team that wins will be the one that improves the car the most and doesn`t make mistakes. We fully believe we can win both championships."

The Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa finished 11th and 19th respectively.

Bureau Report