ISTANBUL, Turkey, May 6 – Two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Spain set the pace for Ferrari in Friday morning's opening free practice session for the Turkish Grand Prix.
But the 90-minutes session run in wet conditions was overshadowed by a big accident involving defending world champion German Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull.
Vettel, 23, was unhurt after making an error and hitting a kerb at Turn Eight with just 15 minutes remaining as rain intensified. His car was severely damaged and the session was red-flagged and suspended for 10 minutes.
"I just hit the kerb, I am sorry — there was nothing I could do," said Vettel on team radio.
Alonso’s best time was one minute and 38.670 seconds set on intermediate tyres during the earlier part of a session run in difficult conditions that required Pirelli’s full range of tyres for the first time this season.
Mercedes men Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher were second and third fastest ahead of compatriot Nick Heidfeld and his Renault team-mate Russian Vitaly Petrov.
Japanese Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber was in typically spectacular form and he finished sixth ahead of Brazilian Felipe Massa in the second Ferrari.
The main title contenders from the top teams were not among the front runners in the first session in which Pirelli’s wet weather tyres were given a proper testing for the first time.
Rosberg warned that there was standing water that caused aquaplaning out on the track, but that did not prevent several other drivers attacking the circuit and running wide at the fast Turn 11.
The conditions caught out many drivers including the rookies and seven-times champion Schumacher before the rainswept session came to and end.
The Turkish Grand Prix, held on Sunday, is the fourth race of the season after Australia, Malaysia and China.