After a long off-season following last year’s season finale at Brazil, F1 is finally back for an exciting 2014 championship as the first practice sessions of the year got under way in Australia for Friday practice.
Fernando Alonso ended the first 90 minute session fastest in his Ferrari and was 4.6 seconds slower than the equivalent time set in last year’s Australian FP1. He was half a second clear of Jenson Button in the Mobil sponsored McLaren, with the Briton managing the 2nd fastest time despite an early problem with his engine.
The two Williams cars set the 3rd and 4th best times in their new Martini livery. Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa was less than half a tenth of a second slower than Jenson Button.
Somewhat surprisingly, Daniel Ricciardo managed to set the 5th fastest time in front of his home crowd after Red Bull struggled throughout pre-season testing. Ricciardo managed 26 laps with team-mate and reigning champion Sebastian Vettel completing 10 laps with the 7th fastest time in the sister Red Bull. Nico Rosberg split the Red Bull pair in his Silver Arrow in 6th.
Kevin Magnussen ended his first Formula One practice session in 8th ahead of Ferrari returnee Kimi Raikkonen. Jean-Eric Vergne was 10th fastest in his Toro Rosso and was visibly struggling with his brakes, as was team-mate Daniil Kvyat who set the 13th fastest time. The two Force India drivers, Nico Hulkenburg and Sergio Perez, were in between the Toro Rossos in 11th and 12th respectively.
The Sauber cars of Gutierrez and Sutil ended FP1 in the 14th and 15th places ahead of the Marussia cars who only completed 10 laps between them.
A number of other drivers struggled along with the Marussia drivers. Team rivals Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi didn’t complete a full lap in their Caterham cars.
Lewis Hamilton was a big name who had struggled in the first practice session. The pre-season favourite to take the title only managed half a lap before his engine shut-down following an oil pressure sensor warning.
Lotus had a poor first practice with Pastor Maldonado not setting a time after an off track excursion on his only lap. Team-mate Grosjean didn’t even leave the garage during the session.
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’32.599||26|
|7||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’32.793||10|
|10||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’33.446||30|
|11||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India||1’33.533||23|
|12||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’33.855||24|
|13||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’34.272||27|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||No Time||1|
|19||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||No Time||1|
|20||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||No Time||1|
|21||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||No Time||2|
|22||Romain Grosjean||Lotus||No Time||0|
Mercedes had been the team to beat throughout pre-season testing but had dropped back in FP1. They returned to the top of the time-sheets in the second practice session with an ominous 1-2 with Lewis Hamilton a tenth ahead of team-mate Nico Rosberg.
Having topped the first session of the year, Fernando Alonso took the 3rd fastest time ahead of Sebastian Vettel in 4th, who continued the upward trend of the Red Bull team following their diabolical pre-season. Vettel’s team-mate Ricciardo was 6th fastest in his RB10 just behind Jenson Button in 5th.
Kimi Raikkonen was 7th fastest in his Ferrari ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen. Nico Hulkenburg completed the top 10 in his Force India following a spin during the session.
Vergne was 11th fastest ahead of Massa, Perez and the Sauber cars of Sutil and Gutierrez. Daniil Kvyat was 16th fastest after having appeared to have held up a few cars during the 90 minutes.
Jules Bianchi was 17th fastest with team-mate Chilton in 19th. Romain Grosjean was 18th and in the Marussia sandwich after having completed 12 laps, 12 laps more than team-mate Pastor Maldonado who didn’t set a time. Neither Caterham completed a lap or set a time with fuel and hydraulic problems.
|4||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1’30.381||41|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1’30.538||38|
|10||Nico Hulkenburg||Force India||1’31.054||33|
|11||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1’31.060||35|
|13||Sergio Perez||Force India||1’31.283||36|
|16||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||1’32.495||38|
|20||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||No Time||1|
|21||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||No Time||0|
|22||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||No Time||0|
By Jordan Groves Formula 1 correspondent for RTR Sports Marketing