McLaren 1-2 in first free practice in Australia

By on Friday, March 16, 2012

Jenson Button set the fastest time in FP1

The first free practice session at the Albert Park circuit on Friday marked the official start to the Formula 1 World Championship, after a winter break of just over three months. Heavy rain fell overnight at the Albert Park circuit, and continued intermittently throughout the morning caused damp conditions on the track when the session started at noon, causing the teams to go out on the Pirelli intermediate or full wet tyres. First out was French rookie Jean-Eric Vergne, who was quickly joined by his team-mate at Toro Rosso Daniel Ricciardo.

Fastest in the opening session were the McLarens of Jenson Button (1:27.560) and Lewis Hamilton (1:27.805). Third was the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher (1:28.235) followed by Fernando Alonso fourth with a time of 1:28.360.

Nico Rosberg pushed his Mercedes to the limit early, running wide at turn 11 but the German was lucky to escape unscathed as the Mercedes trundled over the grass.

As the majority of the field completed their installation laps, local driver Daniel Ricciardo set the first timed lap of the weekend with a 01:47.448, and was quickly joined at the top by team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne. The two happily swapped fastest laps before the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso spoiled their fun.

The misery continued for Spanish outfit HRT, as Narain Karthikeyan’s car ground to a halt on track. It was later discovered the car was suffering from an oil pressure sensor failure, which will create further problems for HRT who are undeniably struggling to get their cars working for 2012.

Lotus were also suffering from issues, as returning World Champion Kimi Raikkonen once again suffered with steering issues and the team set to work changing the steering rack on the E20. Raikkonen spent most of the session in the garage and only returned to the track with seven minutes remaining of the session.

As the track began to dry, Nico Rosberg went fastest with 01:37.147, which was quickly beaten by the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi who set a 01:36.906. With the track obviously ready for dry tyres, Sauber’s Sergio Perez was the first driver to brave the track on dry Pirelli’s. His team-mate, Kobayashi, quickly copied him and posted a time five seconds faster with a 01:31.751.

Mark Webber then became the first driver from the sharp end of the grid to set a true fastest lap, as the Australian driver set a 01:30.520. The luxury of being fastest didn’t last long for Webber, as Kobayashi returned to the top once again, becoming the first driver to set a time within the 01:29s with a 01:29.722.

Several drivers’ spun during FP1, with rookie Jean-Eric Vergne running wide at turn 15 and running down the escape road. However, the most surprising action from the first practice session was from Felipe Massa, who embedded his Ferrari in gravel after spinning at turn 9. The Brazilian dipped a wheel on the grass, and lost control of the car. This prompted several shakes of the head from the Ferrari garage.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Button McLaren 1m27.560s 11 2. Hamilton McLaren 1m27.805s + 0.245 14 3. Schumacher Mercedes 1m28.235s + 0.675 17 4. Alonso Ferrari 1m28.360s + 0.800 21 5. Webber Red Bull 1m28.467s + 0.907 21 6. Rosberg Mercedes 1m28.683s + 1.123 22 7. Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m28.908s + 1.348 23 8. Maldonado Williams 1m29.415s + 1.855 16 9. Raikkonen Lotus 1m29.565s + 2.005 8 10. Kobayashi Sauber 1m29.722s + 2.162 26 11. Vettel Red Bull 1m29.790s + 2.230 21 12. Hulkenberg Force India 1m29.865s + 2.305 17 13. di Resta Force India 1m29.881s + 2.321 18 14. Senna Williams 1m29.953s + 2.393 21 15. Perez Sauber 1m30.124s + 2.564 22 16. Grosjean Lotus 1m30.515s + 2.955 16 17. Kovalainen Caterham 1m30.586s + 3.026 16 18. Massa Ferrari 1m30.743s + 3.183 11 19. Vergne Toro Rosso 1m31.178s + 3.618 17 20. Petrov Caterham 1m31.983s + 4.423 8 21. Glock Marussia 1m34.730s + 7.170 8 22. Pic Marussia 1m40.256s + 12.696 11 23. Karthikeyan HRT no time 3 24. de la Rosa HRT no time 0

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