The Brit posted a quickest mark of 1 minute 26.836 seconds to finish over half a second up on world champion Sebastian Vettel at the Buddh International Circuit.
Vettel’s Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber was a just over a hundredth further back in third while Jenson Button and Michael Schumacher completed the top five.
But the first Formula One action at the new circuit was not without teething problems, as a stray dog temporarily halted the session after making its way onto the track.
The surface started out wet after being watered down to remove the large amount of dust on it, with Adrian Sutil in the Force India appropriately being the first man out.
It was Team Lotus’ Indian tester Karun Chandhok who posted the first lap time, a 1:52.148 but his second lap saw Chandhok have to take avoiding action to avoid a dog running on the track.
After a short delay, the Indian then continued when Narain Karthikeyan, who is standing in for Tonio Liuzzi this weekend, hit the front with a 1:45.906.
The times continued to tumble as drivers adjusted to the track, although there were also a few off-track moments for some of the drivers, including Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel.
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