Mark Webber has delighted his home fans by heading the timesheets at the end of the first free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

Mark Webber finished fastest in the first free practice session at Albert Park Webber’s quickest time, a 1:26.831, was posted on the hard Pirelli ‘prime’ tyre compound on his very last lap of the session, while his German team-mate found up 0.327 seconds slower after a late bid to take the top spot on the timesheets. Vettel finished the session second-fastest overall.

And while would be unwise to then suggest that Red Bull is undoubtedly the team to beat based on a single practice session, the margin by which Webber and Vettel were quicker than their rivals has certainly lent that argument some support.

Overnight hadn’t had any impact on the track being able to dry in time for the opening practice session, which – in accordance with this being a twilight race – began in the early afternoon at 12:30pm local time. Conditions remained dry throughout the session, with an ambient temperature of 17°C (63°F) and a 22°C (72°F) track temperature.

The session saw three reserve drivers in action, with Australian Daniel Ricciardo taking over the Toro Rosso seat in place of Jaime Alguersuari, Nico Hülkenberg sitting in the Force India cockpit in place of Paul di Resta, and Karun Chandhok driving the Lotus in place of Jarno Trulli.

But despite being the first man on track when the session started, Chandhok’s maiden outing in the T128 lasted all of a few hundred metres before he lost the rear of the car exiting Turn 3, spinning towards the inside wall, which met with his nosecone. The Indian driver was out on the spot and took no further part in the session.

Another to not complete any mileage was Chandhok’s former employer, Hispania Racing, which pulled a late-night shift for its mechanics but has still not managed to have either of its new F111 cars assembled for Narain Karthikeyan or Vitantonio Liuzzi to try. The team has stated its intention to run the new cars in the second practice session later this afternoon.

To the front of the field, however, and Fernando Alonso finished up third fastest in his Ferrari, although almost a second slower than the benchmark time set by Webber.

Nico Rosberg finished fourth-fastest, while Rubens Barrichello was working hard to brush off any remaining jetlag to finish fifth-fastest for Williams.

Jenson Button took his McLaren sixth-fastest in FP1 Featuring higher up the timesheets than many had perhaps expected was the McLaren pairing of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, who showed decent pace in the updated MP4-26, which sported more simplified components – including its exhaust configuration – after a poor showing in pre-season testing.

Michael Schumacher finished eighth-quickest at the end of the session with a best lap that was half-a-second slower than team-mate Rosberg.

Completing the top ten was Kamui Kobayashi – whose Sauber shed part of its engine cover – and Vitaly Petrov.

There may be some concern at the bottom of the timesheets, with the Virgin pairing of Timo Glock and Jérôme d’Ambrosio lapping over 8 seconds a lap off the pace – this speed will need to significantly improve if they are to have a hope of making the grid for Sunday’s race.

Several drivers suffered tyre lock-ups and a few – including Webber and Felipe Massa – had off-track moments, although none of the severity of what Chandhok had managed earlier in the session.

The second practice session will start at 4:30pm local time.


2011 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:

  Driver   Team Time Laps
1. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Renault RB7 1:26.831 20
2. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Renault RB7 + 0.327 19
3. Fernando Alonso ESP Ferrari F150° Italia + 0.918 20
4. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.321 16
5. Rubens Barrichello BRZ Williams Cosworth FW33 + 1.599 24
6. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.609 29
7. Lewis Hamilton GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-26 + 1.652 26
8. Michael Schumacher DEU Mercedes GP W02 + 1.859 14
9. Kamui Kobayashi JPN Sauber Ferrari C30 + 1.894 13
10. Vitaly Petrov RUS Renault R31 + 1.930 15
11. Felipe Massa BRZ Ferrari F150° Italia + 2.011 20
12. Nick Heidfeld DEU Renault R31 + 2.097 14
13. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 2.483 19
14. Sébastien Buemi SUI Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.497 21
15. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Cosworth FW33 + 2.572 24
16. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Toro Rosso Ferrari STR6 + 2.637 23
17. Sergio Pérez MEX Sauber Ferrari C30 + 2.812 18
18. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Force India Mercedes VJM04 + 4.171 20
19. Heikki Kovalainen FIN Lotus Renault T128 + 5.597 13
20. Jérôme d’Ambrosio BEL Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 8.451 17
21. Timo Glock DEU Virgin Racing Cosworth MVR-02 + 8.458 15
22. Karun Chandhok IND Lotus Renault T128 no time 1
23. Vitantonio Liuzzi ITA HRT F1 Cosworth F111 no time 0
24. Narain Karthikeyan IND HRT F1 Cosworth F111 no time 0

[Images via LAT and Sutton Images]

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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.