Rosberg Quickest In Opening Australian Practice

Nico Rosberg launched his challenge at Lewis Hamilton’s Championship crown by going fastest in the first practice session of the 2015 season, at Albert Park.

Although it was the Toro Rosso and Ferrari drivers who charged eagerly onto the track when practice began, it was nine minutes before Rosberg set the first timed lap. Hamilton’s first effort seconds later went slower, and Nico’s second effort went faster than his first.

The on-track action was typical of what could be expected in the first practice session of the year. Plenty of drivers went out on track, and plenty of drivers returned to the pits to have their cars disassembled by their crew. Both McLaren drivers, for example, were out of their respective machines with over half-an-hour left in the session, as Honda engineers fiddled with the new engine.

Romain Grosjean spent a chunk of his session watching his car being pulled apart by Lotus mechanics who decided the floor needed to be changed – a laborious and time-consuming task which requires a lot of bodywork removal.

Grosjean can take consolation from the fact he made it to track, though, while neither Sauber nor Manor managed to get a car out for a single lap.

Sauber presumably chose not to run their car for fear of a legal bite from Giedo van der Garde’s team. The Dutchman claims to have paid for a seat in 2015 before Sauber gave Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr a drive for the season. Van der Garde has challenged this in an Australian court and won, meaning Sauber will have to let him drive. However, without a Superlicense, which all drivers must posses, Van der Garde will likely have to wait until Malaysia before he lines up on the grid. Both Nasr and Ericsson sat in their cars for the bulk of the session, albeit not driving, almost as if afraid Van der Garde would steal their seat if they got out of the car.

Down at Manor, formerly Marussia, there were no legal issues holding them back: the cars just simply aren’t prepared. Having missed pre-season testing, Manor are having to battle through a myriad of technical issues to get their car out on track. Team CEO Graeme Lowdon told Sky Sports that it’s not clear if they will make FP2 – or even the race – so Malaysia could be the team’s first on-track appearance.

There were no big incidents to report, rather the usual opening session niggles to get out of the way. Daniel Ricciardo spun into the slow T15, while Max Verstappen took a wobble through the fast T1 chicane. Soon afterwards Valtteri Bottas showed off his driving skills when he stopped his Williams sliding into the gravel with some sexy opposite lock. Sebastian Vettel also pushed the limits through the super-fast T11/T12 but paid the price for his daring when he hobbled through the gravel trap on the exit of T12.

Apart from these few incidents, practice played its course in dry fashion, and finished with a Virtual Safety Car simulation. Nico Rosberg remained safely on top of the timesheets but, due to his 2014 performances, a Lewis Hamilton pole on Saturday cannot be discounted. One thing is clear already, though: the fight for pole involves only Mercedes.

Free Practice One Results:

  1. Nico Rosberg
  2. Lewis Hamilton
  3. Valtteri Bottas
  4. Carlos Sainz
  5. Sebastian Vettel
  6. Max Verstappen
  7. Felipe Massa
  8. Kimi Raikkonen
  9. Pastor Maldonado
  10. Daniel Ricciardo
  11. Daniil Kvyat
  12. Sergio Perez
  13. Nico Hulkenberg
  14. Jenson Button
  15. Kevin Magnussen
  16. Romain Grosjean
  17. Marcus Ericsson
  18. Felipe Nasr
  19. Will Stevens
  20. Roberto Merhi
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