Australia – Practice 1 – McLarens set the pace, Mercedes look strong
Formula 1 is underway in 2012! Australia hosts the first round of the season, and the action began this morning with Practice 1.
The teams were greeted by a damp track, which made for little meaningful running in the first hour of so of the session. All of the drivers apart from Pedro de la Rosa completed installation laps, and then most were quiet for a while as they waited for the track to dry. De la Rosa’s HRT was not ready to run in Practice 1, despite the team breaking their curfew last night in an attempt to finish building the car.
As the first “flying” laps were done, the times were slow, around 20 seconds off the pace expected in the dry. A mixture of intermediate and wet tyres were used as the teams carried out system checks and gathered some data in the wet conditions. However, there was not much to be gained by touring around slowly, so teams such as McLaren waited in the pitlane while some of the others dried the track.
The track was reasonably dry with about half an hour to go in the session, and the laptimes began to drop. The Mercedes pair of Schumacher and Rosberg topped the timesheets for a while, before being split by the Ferrari of Fernando and the Red Bull of Mark Webber and then beaten by the McLaren pair of Button and Hamilton.
While it is difficult to analyse laptimes in practice, it seems that McLaren are quick as expected, and Mercedes seem to be quite confident. The car looks driveable and team principal Ross Brawn has commented that the team is much better prepared than it was this time last year. Red Bull did not really show their pace, with Vettel down in 11th. But they are unlikely to show what they can do until qualifying.
There were only two minor incidents in the session. Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT came to a stop on the track, presumably with a teething reliability issue, which is not entirely surprising as the team has had almost no pre-season running. Ferrari’s Felipe Massa made a small error, putting a rear wheel on the wet grass under braking for turn 9, which inevitably saw him spin into the gravel trap.
Times from the session as follows:
|5||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||01:28.5||21|
|7||16||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||01:28.9||23|
|11||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||01:29.8||21|
|12||12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||01:29.9||17|
|13||11||Paul di Resta||Force India||01:29.9||18|
|19||17||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||01:31.2||17|
|23||23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT||No time||3|
|24||22||Pedro de la Rosa||HRT||No time||0|