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:

Pos No Driver Team Time Laps
1 3 Jenson Button McLaren 01:27.6 11
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 01:27.8 14
3 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 01:28.2 17
4 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 01:28.4 21
5 2 Mark Webber Red Bull 01:28.5 21
6 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 01:28.7 22
7 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 01:28.9 23
8 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams 01:29.4 16
9 9 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus 01:29.6 8
10 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 01:29.7 26
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
14 19 Bruno Senna Williams 01:30.0 21
15 15 Sergio Perez Sauber 01:30.1 22
16 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 01:30.5 16
17 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 01:30.6 16
18 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 01:30.7 11
19 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 01:31.2 17
20 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham 01:32.0 8
21 24 Timo Glock Marussia 01:34.7 8
22 25 Charles Pic Marussia 01:40.3 11
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT No time 3
24 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT No time 0

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