Alonso leads in Australian GP first practice

McLaren's Fernando Alonso was the man who set the pace in the opening session of the Australian Grand Prix, his time of 1:29.214 the best of the 22 car field. Ferrari's Felipe Massa was second quickest and BMW Sauber test driver Sebastian Vettel was third on the time sheet.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes.
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It was a fairly sedate start to the 2007 season, with only installation laps being done in the first 15 minutes or so. In fact, despite the new ruling of engine penalties not applying to Fridays, there was very little action. It was near enough as inactive as last year was in first practice, only half an hour longer.

BMW Sauber opted to run test and third driver Vettal instead of Robert Kubica and Williams did likewise, Kazuki Nakajima on track instead of Nico Rosberg. Although earlier rain had provided a damp track, the opening session was not declared wet.

In the final minutes Alonso outdid Massa for the fastest time and the Spaniard's teammate Lewis Hamilton likewise put in a late hot lap for fourth fastest. However, Hamilton was over one and a half seconds off the reigning world champion.

Indeed, everyone was around 1.5 off Alonso. Massa was merely hundredths down but Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen was over 10 seconds off the pace of the lead McLaren.

Vettel was 1.6 down and while BMW's senior hand Nick Heidfeld had stayed at the top of the times for much of the session, he finished some way down the times in 17th.

Jenson Button was the lead Honda in fifth and Rubens Barrichello was 10th. Barrichello was around half a second off Button. Nakajima was a respectable sixth for Williams and Alex Wurz was 13th on his return to competition after a six year hiatus as a test driver.

David Coulthard and Mark Webber apparently denied Red Bull's lack of pace in winter testing with seventh and ninth respectively. Renault's Heikki Kovalainen split the pair in eighth and teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was 12th.

Takuma Sato was a notable 11th for Super Aguri and new recruit to the Japanese squad Anthony Davidson was 18th. Adrian Sutil was the lead Spyker in 14th and Chrsitijan Albers was 16th. In between the two was Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi and the sister car of Scott Speed was 21st.

The Toyotas were well down the list, Ralf Schumacher 20th and Jarno Trulli rounding off the times in 22nd. Not much changes from one year to the next as far as practices are concerned: pretty much the usual. Final top eight classification: Alonso, Massa, Vettel, Hamilton, Button, Nakajima, Coulthard, Kovalainen.