Suzuka: McLaren driver Jenson Button set the fastest time in Friday's opening practice session for the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix. Button, who won last year's Japanese GP, edged team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.233 seconds with Red Bull driver Mark Webber third in the morning session at the Suzuka circuit.
Button has two wins this year in Australia and Belgium, and kept a pulse in his faint title hopes by taking second place in Singapore but will drop five places on the grid for Sunday's race due to changing a gearbox. Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg was fourth followed by team-mate Michael Schumacher — who announced on Thursday that he will retire at season's end — while championship leader Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was down in 11th.
The teams used hard tires in the morning session, saving the softer option for the afternoon practice with no chance of rain.
Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi was sixth fastest in front of expectant home fans, ahead of Ferrari's Felipe Massa. Force India drivers Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, then Williams' Pastor Maldonado, rounded out the top 10.
Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who is second in the drivers' championship, 29 points behind Alonso with six races left, was down in 17th. Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen, who is third in the standings despite not having won a race, was 13th.