Christian Vietoris laid down a marker in the first session of the 2011 season, claiming the top spot in the last minute of a wet free practice at Istanbul Park ahead of Romain Grosjean and Giedo van der Garde.
The German's best lap time of 1:43.399 was two tenths faster than his nearest rival, who had also improved his lap just before the close of a fairly dramatic session in gloomy conditions. The session opened with rain drizzling all over the circuit, and it never quite stopped across the next half hour.
Vietoris, Grosjean and Stefano Coletti set the early pace, although they were soon back in the pits courtesy of a red flag period brought about by Esteban Gutierrez's wild ride through turn nine: the Mexican rode the outside curb and was thrown onto the inside wall, stopping in the middle of the track and handing his mechanics a tough job ahead of this afternoon's qualifying session.
When the session restarted a number of drivers spun in the treacherous conditions, with Jules Bianchi notably replaying his teammates earlier accident (albeit with less damage to the car). Van der Garde claimed the top spot with 8 minutes remaining , and the assumption was that his rivals would pull up and save some tires for what looks set to be a wet weekend.
This assumption was wrong, however, as a number of drivers improved their time on the final tour of the circuit: Grosjean and then Vietoris improved on the Dutchman's time, with Bianchi, Max Chilton, Dani Clos, Coletti and Luca Filippi lining up behind the top three on the timesheets, giving an indication of the fight for pole this afternoon.
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