Red Bull’s 25-year-old German, who leads Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso by 6 points with four races remaining, set a best time of one minute 27.619 seconds at the foggy Buddh International Circuit south of New Delhi. McLaren’s Jenson Button was 2nd fastest, 0.310 slower, with Alonso 3rd.
The top three in first practice were in the same order as last year’s podium finishers at the opening Indian Grand Prix, which Vettel wins after having already clinched his 2nd championship.
McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton was 4th on the timesheets with Vettel’s Australian team mate Mark Webber fifth. Kimi Raikkonen, 3rd in the championship with Lotus, was 10th fastest on his first experience of the track.
Mexican Esteban Gutierrez replaced compatriot Sergio Perez at Sauber, after the usual race driver was reported to be unwell, and was 20th.