Fernando Alonso has topped the timesheets as the 2014 Formula 1 season got underway in today’s opening practice session at Albert Park. The Ferrari driver finished half a second clear of the rest of the field, with Jenson Button heading the Mercedes-powered charge in second place.
A very healthy crowd waited around the 5.3-kilometre circuit to see and hear the new cars in action, marking what is surely one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of Grand Prix racing in recent memory. And to those who hadn’t heard the cars in anger, it was a surprise: the new powerplants had made the cars much quieter than before, and it will certainly take some getting used to.
As the media centre set up a straw poll to bet on who would break down first – most pundits suggested Sebastian Vettel – it was the chance for the early runners to get some installation laps underway before retiring to the garage in the hope someone else could clean up the little used track surface.
As it was, Vettel’s car needed some urgent attention, and so it fell to Lewis Hamilton to take the honours and conk out on his out-lap, having spent an eternity at pit exit trying to get a practice start under his belt. The Englishman’s Mercedes stopped after Turn 9 when an oil pressure alarm went off, and the electronics shut down the car to preserve its precious powerplant.
Hamilton wasn’t the only runner to fail to turn a lap, with two of the Renault running teams failing to post a time at all. Caterham sent each of its drivers on a single out-lap before returning to the garage for the rest of the session, with electrical and fuel sensor issues.
While Romain Grosjean didn’t even get a run, Pastor Maldonado was the only driver to emerge for Lotus, getting on track late in the 90-minute session. The Venezuelan rather predictably threw the hastily built car off the track on just his second lap, however, and pulled into the pits with no further running.
Aside from a few slides through the Turn 1 kitty litter and a half-spin for Sergio Pérez at Turn 3, the session saw little in the way of serious incident or mechanical dramas, that the media knew of anyway. Jean-Éric Vergne probably had the greatest problem, sliding into the Turn 3 gravel in the dying minutes of play with a brake-by-wire problem in his Toro Rosso.
Friday’s second free practice session gets underway at 4:30pm local time (GMT +11).
2014 Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Results:
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||1:31.840||20|
|2.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||1:32.357||+ 0.517||23|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||1:32.403||+ 0.563||27|
|4.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||1:32.431||+ 0.591||19|
|5.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:32.599||+ 0.759||26|
|6.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||1:32.604||+ 0.764||17|
|7.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:32.793||+ 0.953||10|
|8.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||1:32.847||+ 1.007||28|
|9.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||1:32.977||+ 1.137||19|
|10.||Jean-Éric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||1:33.446||+ 1.606||30|
|11.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||1:33.533||+ 1.693||23|
|12.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||1:33.855||+ 2.015||24|
|13.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||1:34.272||+ 2.432||27|
|14.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||1:35.578||+ 3.738||7|
|15.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||1:36.445||+ 4.605||13|
|16.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:40.859||+ 9.019||6|
|17.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:46.952||+ 15.082||4|
|18.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||no time||1|
|19.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||no time||1|
|20.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||no time||1|
|21.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||no time||1|
|22.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||no time||0|
Images via FOM and Sutton Images