Sebastian Vettel was fastest in the opening practice session at the Australian Grand Prix

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:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Sebastian Vettel DEU Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:27.211   16
2. Felipe Massa BRA Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:27.289 + 0.078 17
3. Fernando Alonso ESP Scuderia Ferrari F138 1:27.547 + 0.336 16
4. Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:27.552 + 0.341 18
5. Mark Webber AUS Red Bull Racing Renault RB9 1:27.668 + 0.457 18
6. Kimi Räikkönen FIN Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:27.877 + 0.666 17
7. Nico Rosberg DEU Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W04 1:28.013 + 0.802 17
8. Adrian Sutil DEU Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:28.426 + 1.215 19
9. Jenson Button GBR McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:28.440 + 1.229 19
10. Romain Grosjean FRA Lotus F1 Renault E21 1:28.520 + 1.309 15
11. Sergio Pérez MEX McLaren Mercedes MP4-28 1:28.597 + 1.386 19
12. Nico Hülkenberg DEU Sauber Ferrari C32 1:28.786 + 1.575 19
13. Paul di Resta GBR Force India Mercedes VJM06 1:28.910 + 1.699 18
14. Pastor Maldonado VEN Williams Renault FW35 1:29.443 + 2.232 20
15. Valtteri Bottas FIN Williams Renault FW35 1:29.928 + 2.717 19
16. Esteban Gutiérrez MEX Sauber Ferrari C32 1:30.203 + 2.992 17
17. Jean-Éric Vergne FRA Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:30.729 + 3.518 17
18. Daniel Ricciardo AUS Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR8 1:30.969 + 3.758 19
19. Jules Bianchi FRA Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:31.263 + 4.052 24
20. Max Chilton GBR Marussia Cosworth MR02 1:32.176 + 4.965 23
21. Charles Pic FRA Caterham Renault CT03 1:32.274 + 5.063 21
22. Giedo van der Garde NED Caterham Renault CT03 1:32.388 + 5.177 18 supports a world free of factory farming. Learn more and pledge your support by CLICKING HERE!

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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.