Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have led a McLaren 1-2 at the end of the first free practice session of the 2012 Formula 1 season. The 2009 World Champion clocked his fastest lap-time in the closing minutes of the session at Albert Park, which started wet, before gradually drying as it wore on.
Local driver Daniel Ricciardo was the first to emerge from pit lane as (for once) Carterham opted not to be the first drivers to sample the slippery track surface.
With track conditions far from ideal, it was almost half an hour into the session before the first timed laps were clocked, with Ricciardo and team-mate Jean-Éric Vergne trading fastest laps early on, although much slower than what would land up being the quickest efforts of the day.
It was a session generally free from major incidents, although Vergne was on driver who struck trouble, having a quick spin before rejoining without suffering any significant damage.
The major moment came for Felipe Massa, who threw his Ferrari into the kitty litter in the final half-hour. The Brazilian dropped two wheels onto the damp grass under braking for Turn 9, and the car promptly swapped ends before he was buried in the gravel. His feeble excuses that his mishap was down to a mechanical issue – and not driver error – were laughable indeed.
Up at the front, the contenders steadily switched over the Pirelli’s ‘medium’ compound as the track surface started to dry, and
F1 returnee Kimi Räikkönen spent most of the session in the pit garages after his Lotus F1 team elected to change his steering rack after his installation lap. He eventually got going in the final fifteen minutes, clocking the ninth-fastest time.
Button and Hamilton would eventually overhaul Michael Schumacher for top honours in the session, with the German heading Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber in the top-five places on the timesheets.
Nico Rosberg ended the day sixth-fastest in the sister Mercedes, ahead of Ricciardo, Pastor Maldonado in the Williams, Räikkönen and Kamui Kobayashi.
Defending World Champion Sebastian Vettel finished eleventh-quickest.
Not surprisingly, the Marussia and HRTF1 outfits brought up the rear in their little-tested challengers, although only Marussia was able to post any lap times. Timo Glock and rookie Charles Pic finished well off the pace, while Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT ground to a halt when an oil sensor indicated high engine temperatures.
At least he got out of the pit-lane, which is more than could be said for Pedro de la Rosa, who remained confined to the garage while the sister F112 was being pieced together. At this stage, it seems little has changed for the Spanish team from a year before…
One final note: kudos to Formula One Management for providing TV viewers with some new camera angles. Mark Webber had a helmet camera installed (not good for those prone to motion sickness!), while Jenson Button’s car had a rearward-facing camera fitted just under the suspension mountings – this gave great shots of the undertray skimming above the track surface. It would be interesting to see this camera in operation at the Brazilian Grand Prix.
2012 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Session Times:
|1.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:27.560||11|
|2.||Lewis Hamilton||McLaren Mercedes MP4-27||1:27.805||+ 0.245||14|
|3.||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:28.235||+ 0.675||17|
|4.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:28.360||+ 0.800||21|
|5.||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:28.467||+ 0.907||21|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG F1 W03||1:28.683||+ 1.123||22|
|7.||Daniel Ricciardo||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:28.908||+ 1.348||23|
|8.||Pastor Maldonado||Williams Renault FW34||1:29.415||+ 1.855||16|
|9.||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:29.565||+ 2.005||8|
|10.||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:29.722||+ 2.162||26|
|11.||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing Renault RB8||1:29.790||+ 2.230||21|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:29.865||+ 2.305||17|
|13.||Paul di Resta||Force India Mercedes VJM05||1:29.881||+ 2.321||18|
|14.||Bruno Senna||Williams Renault FW34||1:29.953||+ 2.393||21|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Sauber Ferrari C31||1:30.124||+ 2.564||22|
|16.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Renault E20||1:30.515||+ 2.955||16|
|17.||Heikki Kovalainen||Caterham Renault CT01||1:30.586||+ 3.026||16|
|18.||Felipe Massa||Scuderia Ferrari F2012||1:30.743||+ 3.183||11|
|19.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR7||1:31.178||+ 3.618||16|
|20.||Vitaly Petrov||Caterham Renault CT01||1:31.983||+ 4.423||8|
|21.||Timo Glock||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:34.730||+ 7.170||8|
|22.||Charles Pic||Marussia Racing Cosworth MR01||1:40.256||+ 12.696||11|
|23.||Narain Karthikeyan||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||no time||3|
|24.||Pedro de la Rosa||HRTF1 Cosworth F112||no time||0|
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