By Max Davies, F1 correspondent
- Webber fastest in practice 1 at home event
- Australian Grand Prix kicks off new season
Webber Signals Intent With Fastest Lap In First Practice
Mark Webber set the fastest time in the first practice session of the new Formula One season in Melbourne, Australia amid dry yet blustery conditions.
The 34 year-old went to the top of the leader board with a 1m 26.831s lap in the last minute of the opening session around the Albert Park track and in doing so, demoted Red Bull Racing team mate and defending champion Sebastian Vettel into second place on a 1m.27.158s.
Prior to the season opener in his homeland, Webber said, "As an Australian I'm looking forward to Melbourne being the first race. I hope to get my best result and there's every indication we can do that."
Fernando Alonso was next up for Ferrari on a 1m27.749 followed by the impressive Mercedes GP of Nico Rosberg. The German's 1m28.152s lap was enough to see him end the opening practice ahead of another head-turning drive from Rubens Barrichello in the Williams whose 1m28.430s was good enough for fifth place.
McLaren took sixth and seventh with Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton covering a lot of laps in a bid to make up for poor reliability during winter testing. With new developments fitted to the previously ill-handling MP4-26, both drivers seemed to have found some speed since the last test in Barcelona three weeks ago. Button's time of 1m28.440s was fractionally quicker than Hamilton's best of 1m28.483s, which relegated 42-year old Michael Schumacher into eighth position on a 1m28.690s in the Mercedes GP.
Kamui Kobayashi took 9th for Sauber on a 1m28.725s ahead of Vitaly Petrov in the Renault who's best effort of 1m28.765s was over 0.2s quicker than his much fancied team mate Nick Heidfeld who was 12th, one place behind Filipe Massa's Ferrari.
As an Australian I'm looking forward to Melbourne being the first race.
Leading the mid-field, Adrian Sutil claimed 13th for Force India while Toro Rosso claimed 14th courtesy of Sebastian Buemi. Debutant Pastor Maldonado took 15th for Williams while Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed his chance to test for Toro Rosso in front of his home crowd on his way to 16th fastest.
Rookie Sergio Perez claimed 17th ahead of Force India's Friday test driver Nico Hulkenberg and the Team Lotus of Heiki Kovalainen.
Virgin drivers Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock ended the session in 20th and 21st respectively while Karun Chandhok endured an embarrassing start to his role as test driver for Team Lotus after brushing the wall and damaging his car inside the first few minutes of the session.
As expected HRT drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi and Narain Karthikeyan failed to record a lap as the team spent the time working on the cars.