Lewis Hamilton topped the first practice session at the Indian Grand Prix, as drivers went on a voyage into the unknown around the new Buddh International Circuit on Friday morning.
The McLaren's time of 1:26.836 was 0.580s faster than Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull in second, with Mark Webber just a fraction further off the pace in third. A gap of nearly a second then extended back to Jenson Button in fourth, with the two Mercedes, led by Michael Schumacher, in fifth and sixth. Felipe Massa's Ferrari was seventh while his team-mate Fernando Alonso had to stop on track due to a loss of power in the second sector of his fourth lap.
Lap times were largely dictated by track conditions, with dust reducing grip at the start of the session but clearing towards the end. All the top drivers went out on soft tyres - safe in the knowledge that they have one extra set than usual this weekend - but will no doubt find more lap time in the afternoon.
The morning got off to a worrying start when a stray dog broke onto the track just six minutes into the session and brought out a red flag. The same thing happened earlier in the day during practice for one of the support races, and the organisers will be keen to prevent it happening again. The dangers are obvious; just ask Bruno Senna, who in 2008 had to retire from a GP2 race after hitting a dog in Turkey.
But even without canine obstacles, the track still proved challenging and several drivers made mistakes at turn six, which marks the entrance to a tricky medium-speed chicane. The grass appeared to be quite bumpy as the cars skittered wide and the dust thrown up did nothing to help the circuit conditions.
The biggest accident came towards the end of the session when Jaime Alguersuari failed to catch a vicious tank-slapper in turn nine. The Toro Rosso gave the crash barriers their first test and the rear of his car was slightly damaged, although it should be repairable for FP2. Pastor Maldonado also encountered problems towards the end of the 90 minutes when smoke appeared from the rear of his Williams on its 22nd tour of the circuit.
The spattering of home fans that made the trip out to the circuit were treated to two Indians on track as Karun Chandhok and Narian Karthikeyan drove for Lotus and HRT respectively. Chandhok completed the first flying lap of the circuit, but finished the session over 1.6s off his team-mate Jarno Trulli.