Lewis Hamilton set the pace in first practice for the Indian Grand Prix, but was later given a three-place grid penalty for setting the time under waved yellow flags at Turn 16.
The Briton had waited until the last possible moment to lead the way in an eventful first free practice session for the Indian Grand Prix, but was caught out by the yellow flags - which were being waved for Pastor Maldonado's stationary Williams.
Red Bull looked to have made the perfect start to the weekend, Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber having covered the first and second positions in the final moments, but that was until Hamilton's charging 1m26.836s lap put him top as the chequered flag fell.
The McLaren of Jenson Button was fourth fastest ahead of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg in the two Mercedes.
Perhaps appropriately it was Adrian Sutil's Force India that was the first Formula 1 car on track for the dry, sunny - and still dusty - opening session. He was followed out by the country's home-grown talent Karun Chandhok.
But no sooner had they got out on track than they were back in the pits again as the session was red-flagged to retrieve a stray dog that had wandered in to the action zone.
The track was made live again after five minutes and initially it was Chandhok, and his Indian rival Narian Karthekeyan who squabbled over the top spot. That was until Michael Schumacher came out and set a benchmark of 1m38.658s. A that mark was set to shrink by 12s before the end of the session.
Indeed Schumacher lopped four seconds off it himself just before the first half-hour was up.
Jaime Alguerusari moved to the top not long after Schumacher set that lap and would then spend the next 15 minutes improving his time as he fought off the attentions of Rosberg and his own Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastien Buemi.
Eventually Button emerged from the pit for a proper run at half distance moving the goalposts significantly with a 1m30.794s lap. This seemed to trigger a flurry of activity from the top men as Vettel also joined in. But the world champion's attempt was scuppered by a trip off-track at the Turn 5/Turn 6 section - something that would happen to several drivers as they learned the new layout.
Button remained top through the second half hour as several drivers joined the fray, but Fernando Alonso wasn't one of them. The Ferrari driver managing just four laps before he parked up off track, sidelined by an engine problem.
Hamilton moved to the top with 25 minutes to go lapping in 1m27.515s, as Vettel too moved ahead of Button. Webber's arrival in second then bumped the Englishman to fourth.
The last 15 minutes saw the Red Bulls move into familiar position as Webber kept his foot in to set a 1m27.428s, only to then watch the world champion steal his thunder with a 1m27.416s.
Things may have changed again, but a dramatic 10 minutes which saw Alguersuari thump the Turn 10 barrier with the rear of his Toro Rosso and engine problems for Pastor Maldonado render the circuit a yellow zone for much of it. Sergio Perez too made a run across the grass.
It was in the aftermath of all this, as the track finally cleared that Hamilton set his lap, with flags still apparently waving in the area of Maldonado's smoky Williams.
Behind the top six Felipe Massa was seventh fastest in the only operational Ferrari, sparking his way around the track with a new front wing. Sutil ended up eighth ahead of Buemi and Kamui Kobayashi in the Sauber.
Of the Indians in the field, Chandhok was 19th fastest for Lotus in the end, but was more than 1.6s off the pace of team-mate Jarno Trulli, while Karthikeyan was 22nd.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 01. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m26.836s 22 02. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m27.416s + 0.580 23 03. Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m27.428s + 0.592 27 04. Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m28.394s + 1.558 23 05. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m28.531s + 1.695 23 06. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m28.542s + 1.706 29 07. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m28.644s + 1.808 22 08. Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m28.705s + 1.869 23 09. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m29.219s + 2.383 24 10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.355s + 2.519 29 11. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1m29.700s + 2.864 24 12. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1m29.705s + 2.869 22 13. Bruno Senna Renault 1m29.799s + 2.963 20 14. Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m30.132s + 3.296 25 15. Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m30.367s + 3.531 21 16. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m30.566s + 3.730 19 17. Pastor Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m30.699s + 3.833 22 18. Jarno Trulli Lotus-Renault 1m30.818s + 3.982 22 19. Karun Chandhok Lotus-Renault 1m32.487s + 5.651 24 20. Daniel Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth 1m32.771s + 5.935 24 21. Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1m33.928s + 7.092 27 22. Jerome D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m34.113s + 7.277 30 23. Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m35.896s + 8.960 19 24. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m35.899s + 9.063 4 All Timing Unofficial