Hamilton nips Webber on Friday practice in Australia

Hamilton nips Webber on Friday practice in Australia

Ferrari and McLaren offered nothing unexpected in the opening action of the 2008 Formula One season, Friday practice at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia. Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing. Photo by Roberto Bonetti. That left Red Bull.

Ferrari and McLaren offered nothing unexpected in the opening action of the 2008 Formula One season, Friday practice at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia.

Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing.
Photo by Roberto Bonetti.

That left Red Bull. Australian Mark Webber shook up the order by grabbing fast time at Friday's second practice and holding it nearly throughout, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton pipping him in the session's final two minutes.

So as was expected, Ferrari and McLaren topped time charts in both sessions, but Red Bull signaled its Adrian Newey-designed RB4s might come good with a rush.

BMW Sauber, the team expected to challenge the top two teams, suffered electrical problems that left drivers Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld downfield.

Not only did Webber (1 minute, 27.473 seconds) come out second-best in the second session, his teammate David Coulthard (1:28.037), who sat out much of the session after an overheating mishap, made a last-minute effort to reach fifth on the list, knocking World Driving Champion Kimi Raikkonen (1:28.208) to sixth.

Raikkonen drove the F2008 to the day's quickest time, 1:26.461, in the first session. Hamilton rolled the McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 to a quick lap 1:26.559 in topping the second.

If Red Bull offered a change to the predicted continued domination of Ferrari and McLaren, so did power slides and drifting poses that greeted drivers working without traction control. Nelson Angelo Piquet's off red-flagged the first session but almost everyone got a wiggling sensation or the feel of gravel beneath the wheels as the day progressed.

Ferraris and McLarens managed the first session lockout with Raikkonen, Hamilton (1:26.948), Ferrari's Felipe Massa (1:26.958), and McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen (1:27.114) taking the top four spots. Webber (1:28.263), followed, more than a second back, ahead of Renault's ace, former world champ Fernando Alonso (1:28.360).

Toyota's Jarno Trulli (1:28.292) followed Raikkonen in the second session ahead of Williams driver Nico Rosberg (1:28.352), who set no time in the morning session, and another surprise effort, Giancarlo Fisichella (1:28.469), in a Force India VJM01. Timo Glock (1:28.582), in the second Toyota, rounded out the top 10.

Fernando Alonso, sixth in the first session in a Renault R28, could do no better than 13th (1:28.779), later on.

As they are wont to do at a season's undertaking, gremlins affected teams up and down the paddock. Besides BMW Sauber electrical problems, Renault suffered brake irritations and Williams gearbox annoyances.

Kubica (1:28.860), seventh-quickest in the first session, was 15th in the second. Heidfeld (1:28.731), managed 12th.

Honda runners Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, whose winter test times tended to leave them at the back, reached respectable placings, Button in 11th in both sessions (1:28.632 second session, 1:29.124 first), and Barrichello 15th to begin (1:29.553), and 14th by day's end (1:28.849).

Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Sebastien Bourdais could not better a quick time of 1:29.363 set in the first session. His second session time, 1:29.605, left him in 20th spot.

To no one's surprise, the financially limited Super Aguris of Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson were left at the bottom of the field after the first-session nonentities Williams got running in the second. Lacking a full complement of car parts, Sato and Davidson did best times of 1:30.663 and 1:31.527, respectively.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Jarno Trulli , Jenson Button , Rubens Barrichello , Mark Webber , David Coulthard , Nick Heidfeld , Anthony Davidson , Fernando Alonso , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Sébastien Bourdais , Nico Rosberg , Heikki Kovalainen , Robert Kubica , Timo Glock , Adrian Newey
Teams Ferrari , Red Bull Racing , Mercedes , Sauber , McLaren , Force India , Toro Rosso , Williams