Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton topped a rain-affected start to the 2016 Formula 1 season, leading the way in the opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne.
In between the showers, Hamilton headed the times in his Mercedes with a lap of 1m29.725s, compared to last year’s fastest FP1 time which was Nico Rosberg’s 1m29.557s.
Hamilton's margin over the rest of the field was 0.421s.
Rosberg failed to set a representative laptime on slick tyres until the closing minutes, and was only sixth fastest – over 2s down on Hamilton – despite setting the quickest first sector.
Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo were second and third fastest respectively, ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen.
Behind Rosberg, McLaren's Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button were a promising seventh and eighth respectively.
Ferrari suffered a poor session in terms of running at the right time, with Sebastian Vettel failing to set a time at all and Kimi Raikkonen going off briefly. The Finn ended the session down in 17th, over 11s off the pace.
Story of the session
Heavy rain meant that the opening practice – which began the 20th anniversary Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne’s Albert Park – started very damp with wet patches.
Rosberg didn’t pit and continued for a flying lap on intermediates, recording a first flying lap of 1m44.037s.
Sergio Perez hit the first problem of the year, his stranded Force India being pushed back from pit exit with just six minutes on the clock.
As the sun came out 10 minutes into the session, Hamilton went P1 on 1m40.812s on inters.
The track dried, and Raikkonen took the top spot after 23 minutes with a lap of 1m40.754s.
Carlos Sainz was the next man in trouble, coasting to a halt in pitlane as he trundled back in from his outlap. He didn’t rejoin, and thus failed to set a laptime.
Slick runs begin
Red Bull’s Ricciardo set the pace on 1m34.007s using medium-compound slick tyres after 30 minutes, lowering that to 1m32.394s on his next lap.
Teammate Kvyat was second on 1m34.123s, ahead of McLaren's Alonso on 1m36.957s.
Hamilton locked up at Turn 13 on his outlap, just before the clouds burst again.
Following some limited intermediate-tyre running, Verstappen was the first to venture out on slicks with 22 minutes remaining but spun at Turn 6 on his first flying lap.
Hulkenberg jumped to the head of the timesheets on 1m31.681s, with teammate Perez going P3 on 1m33.370s. Hulkenberg lowered his top time to 1m31.325s, with Verstappen leaping to second on 1m31.961s.
Then Hamilton threw down the Mercedes gauntlet with a lap of 1m30.364s, just before another rain shower was blown across the circuit on the brisk wind.
Williams's Valtteri Bottas suffered a brief trip through the gravel at Turn 6, and debutant Rio Haryanto did likewise moments later.
As the track dried again in the closing moments, Kvyat went fourth fastest on 1m31.494s and improved again to top the session briefly on 1m30.146s.
Hamilton grabbed P1 back with 1m29.725s, followed by a big lockup as the rain fell again which concluded the meaningful times.
Raikkonen then went off down the escape road at Turn 13, which meant neither Ferrari appeared on the first page of the times.
Ricciardo – who rose to third on 1m30.875s – beached himself in the closing minute of the session at Turn 12 as the rain poured down, but stopped short of the barriers.
Other significant moments
Renault’s return to F1 as a works team was headlined by Kevin Magnussen in 10th.
Of the F1 debutants, Jolyon Palmer led the way in his Renault in 14th, with Pascal Wehrlein 16th and Haryanto 19th in their Manors.
The clampdown on radio messages was evident by the lack of chatter over the airwaves.
Newcomers Haas F1’s Esteban Gutierrez was a rare communication picked up by TV, complaining of “inconsistencies on the power delivery.”
He suffered a brief off at Turn 9 and was 18th quickest, with Romain Grosjean 20th.
Results: Formula 1 2016 Australian GP FP1
|2||Daniil Kvyat||Red Bull Racing||1:30.146||+0.421||14|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing||1:30.875||+1.150||13|
|4||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:31.325||+1.600||8|
|5||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso||1:31.720||+1.995||14|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:33.370||+3.645||6|
|10||Kevin Magnussen||Renault F1 Team||1:34.060||+4.335||13|
|14||Jolyon Palmer||Renault F1 Team||1:35.477||+5.752||12|
|16||Pascal Wehrlein||Manor Racing||1:40.401||+10.676||6|
|18||Esteban Gutiérrez||Haas F1 Team||1:41.780||+12.055||8|
|19||Rio Haryanto||Manor Racing||1:43.372||+13.647||7|
|20||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team||1:43.443||+13.718||6|
|22||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||3|
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