India’s dream date with the glamourous world of Formula One was marred by a stray dog on the opening day as the first practice session was redflagged for about five minutes when the canine intruded the circuit.
The honours of the one and a half hour session, however, went to Lewis Hamilton who waited until the business end to unleash the fastest lap in the newly constructed 5.14km-long Buddh International Circuit.
Hamilton, however, was given a three-place grid penalty for setting the time under waved yellow flags at Turn 16. Sauber driver Sergio Perez was also docked with a three place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flag.
Hamilton stopped the clock at 1:26.836s. Red Bull duo of Sebastian Vettel (1:27.416) and Mark Webber (1:27.428) finished second and third respectively. Jenson Button, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa, Adrian Sutil, Sebastian Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi completed the top-10.
Of the Indians in the field, Karun Chandhok was 19th fastest for Lotus, but was more than 1.6s off the pace of team-mate Jarno Trulli, while Narain Karthikeyan was 22nd. It was Adrian Sutil's Force India
that hit the track first, followed by Karun.
Vijay Mallya was a proud man in the pits. The business tycoon said the Indian GP was defining moment for him. “It has always been a dream to have a Formula 1 event in India. I never thought it was possible. It's an emotional moment for all of us. There was a lot of speculation about whether the track would be ready and the event has had its fair share of controversy after what happened with the Commonwealth Games - but we're ready. It's a great track and the drivers love it. I can tell you that India is excited and this will be a huge boost for F1 in India,” said Mallya.
The brand new track turned out to be a big challenge for the drivers as the session witnessed an array of spins and off-track excursions. The last 10 minutes were dramatic as Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari lost control of his car and hit the barrier at Turn 10, while Williams’ Pastor Maldonado prolonged the yellow flag by stopping his car on track with a blown engine. Sauber’s Sergio Perez too ran across the grass.
The Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso, who managed just four laps, had to park his off track and catch the action from the sidelines due to an engine problem.