Vettel dominates Friday practice for the Australian GP season opener

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Once again, Sebastian Vettel was on top of the timesheets today on the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne, Australia with the final minutes of the second practice session definitely adding a bit of excitement.

Sebastian Vettel's best lap time of 1:25.908 was nearly three-tenths of a second faster than his Infiniti Red Bull-Renault teammate Mark Webber. However, the Australian was one of the Formula One racers who went off the track near the end of the second practice session.

While the German hot shoe was golden, Webber spun his RB9 on the exit of Turn 13 but as he sat sideways on the circuit, the Aussie managed to keep his car running and was able to continue. He was not alone as Lewis Hamilton and several others also left the track within the closing 10 minutes.

It was poor timing as the yellow flags began to be waved, but for Vettel, all was perfect. Said the defending champion who named this year's car, 'Hungry Heidi', "It was pretty seamless and there was no trouble with the car. After all the mileage of testing, it was fun to be out there – this circuit doesn’t get easier, it’s a good challenge."

Webber commented: “We still have a huge amount to go through tonight and we’re expecting a bit of overcast stuff tomorrow, so we need to be ready for that. Overall, it was pretty positive for us, but there are still areas to improve on.”

Hamilton went off at the sixth turn with seven minutes remaining, and from the looks of the tire marks in the gravel, it appeared the Briton missed his mark since it appeared he had damage; making it a long walk back to the pits. His Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg, pulled off the track shortly after he did with a possible gearbox problem. “Overall it was a good day, if perhaps not the smoothest,” said Hamilton.

For the Mercedes team, the day was a good one despite the final minutes of the second practice. Hamilton and Rosberg both put in good times on the day as Rosberg was third fastest with a time of 1:26.322 while Hamilton ended seventh with a 1:26.772. Said Rosberg, “My car had a gearbox problem at the end of the second session but these things happen and it doesn't affect us for tomorrow.”

Kimi Raikkonen was consistent in his Lotus F1 powered by Renault. The Finn was fourth in the afternoon with a 1:26.361. His teammate Romain Grosjean improved after the morning runs and ended with his best lap of 1:26.680 for the fifth best time of the day. “It’s good for the season to start and the car felt pretty strong out there. I don’t think we’re the fastest but it’s a good start. It was nice to have a reliable day," said Raikkonen.

The Scuderia Ferrari team had a steady day with Felipe Massa faster than Fernando Alonso in the morning session; however the tables were turned with the Spaniard taking the best lap time in the afternoon. Alonso clocked a 1:26.748 for sixth while the Brazilian laid down the eighth best at a time of 1:26.855.

With the new Pirelli tyres this year, many of the drivers have noticed the wear on the super soft compound and today Massa used them to set his fastest lap; however at the end of the seven laps, the super soft tyres were used up as the major degradation was noticeable.

The major focus was not on who was fastest or which teams were able to stay close in times to the Red Bull RB9, instead the concern was… what happened to the McLaren-Mercedes team? Jenson Button was 11th fastest which was a shock. New team driver Sergio Perez was just two slots back of the Briton.

The concern is real as Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh said, "Our car appears to be lacking in grip and consistency, and is suffering from significant understeer and poor ride."

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About this article
Series F1
Article type Practice report
Tags grosjean, hamilton, raikkonen, red bull, renault, rosberg, vettel, webber

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