Robert Kubica got Renault’s weekend off to a positive start by heading the timesheets after the opening 90-minute free practice session of the Australian Grand Prix.

Despite the showers that had initially been forecast for this afternoon’s proceedings, the drivers and race fans were greeted with dry conditions for the opening timed session of the Grand Prix weekend.

Kubica went quickest in the opening practice session

It took almost half the session before anyone started to post some seriously quick times, but the final half-hour saw the fastest time posted by the McLarens of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg and Kubica.

The Pole’s fastest time was set with 15 minutes of the session still to run, and he was the only driver to break into the 1m26s barrier.

The Ferraris of Felipe Massa (fourth-quickest) and Fernando Alonso (sixth-quickest) set late quick laps and sandwiched the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel’s team-mate and the local crowd favourite Mark Webber was mired in the timesheets in fourteenth spot, frequently held up by slower cars and running up the escape road at the second-last corner in the dying minutes of the session.

Michael Schumacher didn’t get much clear track time, and continued his run of being slower than team-mate Rosberg in every session thus far – he finished up 12th-quickest of the 24-driver field.

BMW Sauber endured the most difficult practice session of the teams. In spite of debuting their own interpretation of the ‘F-vent’ on their C29, Kamui Kobayashi completed just 5 times laps after suffering two separate front wing breakages.

The first was self-inflicted, when the Japanese driver hit a dangerously positioned cone on the inside of the Turn 11-12 sweeps and literally sheared the left-hand side of the front wing from his car. Robbed of front-end downforce, he ran wide into the Turn 12 gravel trap.

Kobayashi's front wing was destroyed

With a replacement wing refitted, he emerged about 20 minutes later, but the wing came off during his out-lap as he braked for Turn 3. He managed to keep his car off the walls, but his running wide put more debris on the circuit.

Kobayashi’s team-mate Pedro de la Rosa ground to a halt in the final 10 minutes of the session.

There was little in the way of spins and incidents during the first practice session, although both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov suffered spins at Turn 9. HRT rookie Bruno Senna struggled under braking for the penultimate corner, and ran wide on a few occasions as well.

Running in place of regular driver Adrian Sutil, Force India’s test driver Paul di Resta had an impressive first outing, winding up in 11th place and only 0.4s slower than regular driver Vitantonio Liuzzi.

Of the new teams, Lotus finished the session comfortably quicker than the others, with Virgin’s Lucas di Grassi best of the rest ahead of Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok.

Timo Glock wound up slowest of all and was confined to the pits for much of the session with an unknown technical glitch.

2010 Australian GP Practice 1 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Robert Kubica POL Renault 1:26.927 22
2. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP + 0.199 18
3. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes + 0.555 22
4. Felipe Massa BRA Ferrari + 0.584 18
5. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault + 0.759 23
6. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari + 0.820 21
7. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes + 0.866 22
8. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari + 1.087 21
9. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault + 1.187 25
10. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA Force India Mercedes + 1.265 18
11. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes + 1.610 25
12. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP + 1.623 19
13. Jaime Alguersuari ESP Toro Rosso Ferrari + 1.645 21
14. Mark Webber AU Red Bull Renault + 1.756 22
15. Pedro de la Rosa ESP Sauber Ferrari + 2.538 13
16. Rubens Barrichello BRA Williams Cosworth + 2.785 18
17. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Williams Cosworth + 3.322 26
18. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari + 4.661 5
19. Jarno Trulli ITA Lotus Cosworth + 4.725 3
20. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Cosworth + 4.727 26
21. Lucas di Grassi BRA Virgin Racing Cosworth + 5.904 25
22. Karun Chandhok IND HRT Cosworth + 6.474 24
23. Bruno Senna BRA HRT Cosworth + 7.324 19
24. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth + 7.998 8

[Images via AUTOSPORT and GP Update]

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.