Melbourne Free Practice 1: Alonso strikes first but some not ready for season opener

Fernando Alonso fastest in FP1 in his Ferrari F14 T

Fernando Alonso fastest in FP1 in his Ferrari F14 T

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso kicked off his 2014 season by topping the time sheets at the end of the first Free Practice of the Australian Grand Prix weekend, as reliability problems saw the new Formula 1 season open with a whimper rather than a bang.

The twice world champion Spaniard posted a lap of one minute 31.840 seconds with half an hour left in the 90 minute session and held his half-a-second lead over McLaren‘s second-placed Jenson Button in brilliant sunshine at Albert Park.

After a winter testing in which teams struggled to come to terms with the new turbocharged hybrid engines, drivers spent much of the session cooling their heels in the garages, while technicians tinkered.

Jenson Button was second best in the McLaren MP4-29

Jenson Button was second best in the McLaren MP4-29

The biggest surprise of the session was trouble for Mercedes, who arrived Down Under optimistic after a promising winter testing.

Having batted away the favourites to win the season-opener tag, Lewis Hamilton was left fuming when his car stopped at turn nine of his installation lap, just five minutes into the session.

With the vehicle hauled off by a tow-truck, the 29-year-old Briton walked back to the paddock without taking his helmet off and suffered the indignity of being stopped by security before retreating into his team’s tent.

Mercedes later issued a statement clarifying that his car had come to an automatic halt triggered by an oil pressure alarm, but said that they needed to investigate the fault further.

Valtteri Bottas Williams FW36 was third fastest

Valtteri Bottas Williams FW36 was third fastest

Mercedes-powered Williams fared better, with Valtteri Bottas posting the third-fasted time and his new team mate Felipe Massa shrugging off a radio malfunction to be fourth quickest.

Red Bull, who endured a dismal winter testing, had an encouraging first session, with new driver Daniel Ricciardo finishing fifth ahead of reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in seventh.

Hamilton’s team mate Nico Rosberg was sixth for Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen, taking his first run for Ferrari since returning to Maranello, was ninth, just behind McLaren debutant Kevin Magnussen.

The car of Lewis Hamilton returned to the pits

Lewis Hamilton’s car is returned to the pits

Lotus waited until just 20 minutes were left in the session before making an appearance, with driver Pastor Maldonado rolling out of the garage, but he managed only an installation lap before taking a skid through some gravel and coming to a halt in pit-lane.

He and team mate Romain Grosjean were among five drivers that failed to post a lap time, suggesting that plenty of work will have to be done before the second practice session later on Friday. (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.

Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne – Free Practice 1, Friday 14 March

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:31.840 20
2 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.357 0.517 23
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:32.403 0.563 27
4 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:32.431 0.591 19
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:32.599 0.759 26
6 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.604 0.764 17
7 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:32.793 0.953 10
8 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:32.847 1.007 28
9 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:32.977 1.137 19
10 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:33.446 1.606 30
11 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:33.533 1.693 23
12 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:33.855 2.015 24
13 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:34.272 2.432 27
14 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:35.578 3.738 7
15 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:36.445 4.605 13
16 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:40.859 9.019 6
17 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:46.922 15.082 4
18 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault No time 1
19 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes No time 1
20 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault No time 1
21 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time 2
22 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault No time 0

  • Tamburello1994

    Looks as if reports of Red Bull’s demise were premature.

    That’s why they call it testing.

  • D.R.S

    Gonna be an interesting season—-

    – Red Bull and how Seb handles not being on the top (for the moment).
    – Merc looks promising. Ham vs. Ros is gonna be intense.
    – Massa at the much improved Martini Williams. A team where he is desired and appreciated for his experience and talent, unlike at Ferrari.
    – Force India has a young and exciting line-up. Hulk is super good.
    – And finally! Kimi vs. Alonso at Ferrari. I cannot wait for the fireworks to begin!!

    Bring it on ! ! !