Sebastian Vettel has kicked off his tilt for a fourth World Championship crown in a row in solid style, by topping the timesheets in the opening practice session of the 2013 season at the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix at Albert Park.
The German shaded Felipe Massa by just seven-hundredths of a second in a session where few runners clocked much in the way of mileage on Pirelli’s new-for-2013 tyres.
With temperatures much hotter than the conditions in which the field had run their pre-season tests in Europe, this would prove the first real test of the year where the teams could gather meaningful data on how the new tyres would degrade in warmer temperatures.
However, qualifying and the race will occur much later in the afternoon – and therefore in cooler conditions – meaning the teams opted to limit their mileage this time around.
It took over half an hour before the first timed lap was posted – that honour went to local boy Daniel Ricciardo with a very leisurely 1m36s effort – before his team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne moved ahead.
The Toro Rosso pair briefly traded fastest times as they worked their way below the 1m30s mark, before the frontrunners came out for some time on the track.
Kimi Räikkönen, Massa and Fernando Alonso and Vettel emerged to jostle for top spot on the timesheets, with Vettel ultimately prevailing with a time that remained unchallenged for the final fifteen minutes of play. Alonso was third-fastest.
Behind the leading trio, Lewis Hamilton showed promise on his first competitive outing with Mercedes and finished fourth-quickest, while fan favourite Mark Webber was fifth-quickest in the other Red Bull entry.
Räikkönen was the quicker of the Lotus entries in sixth place, while Nico Rosberg was seventh-fastest in the other Mercedes.
Adrian Sutil marked his return to Force India with the ninth-fastest time, performing solidly in comparison to team-mate Paul di Resta, who spun into the Turn 6 kitty litter in the closing minutes of the session.
2013 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:27.211||16|
|2.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:27.289||+ 0.078||17|
|3.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F138||1:27.547||+ 0.336||16|
|4.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:27.552||+ 0.341||18|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB9||1:27.668||+ 0.457||18|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:27.877||+ 0.666||17|
|7.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04||1:28.013||+ 0.802||17|
|8.||Adrian Sutil||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:28.426||+ 1.215||19|
|9.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:28.440||+ 1.229||19|
|10.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E21||1:28.520||+ 1.309||15|
|11.||Sergio Pérez||McLaren Mercedes MP4-28||1:28.597||+ 1.386||19|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:28.786||+ 1.575||19|
|13.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM06||1:28.910||+ 1.699||18|
|14.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW35||1:29.443||+ 2.232||20|
|15.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Renault FW35||1:29.928||+ 2.717||19|
|16.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber Ferrari C32||1:30.203||+ 2.992||17|
|17.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:30.729||+ 3.518||17|
|18.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8||1:30.969||+ 3.758||19|
|19.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:31.263||+ 4.052||24|
|20.||Max Chilton||Marussia Cosworth MR02||1:32.176||+ 4.965||23|
|21.||Charles Pic||Caterham Renault CT03||1:32.274||+ 5.063||21|
|22.||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham Renault CT03||1:32.388||+ 5.177||18|