Melbourne Free Practice 2: Hamilton tops as Mercedes show their hot pre-season pace

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W05

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W05

Lewis Hamilton lent some credibility to the hype surrounding Mercedes by posting the fastest time in Friday Practice at the Australian Grand Prix, as the Formula One season kicked off with teams still battling reliability problems.

The 2008 world champion could not finish a lap in the first session due to a sensor problem, but topped the timesheets in the second session with a lap of one minute 29.625 seconds on a glorious sunny day at Albert Park.

Hamilton’s quickest edged out team mate Nico Rosberg by 0.157 seconds as the pace of the two Mercedes’ drivers carried on from their promising performances in winter testing.

Nico Rosberg second fastest

Nico Rosberg second fastest

“I was trying to feel the car. I missed obviously P1 which I felt like was a big back-step,” Hamilton told reporters in the paddock.

“I’m satisfied with P2 . Not the most perfect day but I’m really glad I got some running in P2 and just grateful I got some time to feel the car.

“For me, it didn’t feel like a good lap. I’d only done a few laps until then. So I’ve still got a lot to improve on, a lot to find out. Otherwise the balance doesn’t feel too bad.”

Teams struggled to come to terms with the new turbocharged hybrid engines during pre-season, and continued to battle glitches during practice, with drivers cooling their heels for long stretches in the garages, as technicians tinkered frantically.

Fernando Alonso was third fastest

Fernando Alonso was third fastest

Excursions onto the track saw a number of drivers fight to handle the extra torque of the new V6 Power Units, with plenty of over-steering at corners and skids onto the grass. The new regs also see reduced downforce, due to strict limitations imposed under the regulations pertaining to aerodynamics.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso handled conditions better than most, posting the quickest lap of one minute 31.840 seconds in the first session and finishing third fastest in the second.

Reigning quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel had a couple of nervy skids, coming onto the grass at one point in the later session, but he finished an encouraging fourth, having endured a dismal winter test with Red Bull.

“I’m quite surprised today, both [my team mate] Dan [Ricciardo] and I did a lot of laps so that’s very good news, so let’s see what tomorrow brings,” Vettel said. “I learned a lot today, we’re in a much happier place already.”

Sebastian Vettel fourth fastest

Sebastian Vettel fourth fastest

Ricciardo finished sixth fastest after putting some decent mileage into the car, with the Red Bull drivers sandwiching McLaren‘s Jenson Button in fifth place.

Kimi Raikonnen, in his first drive since returning to Ferrari, was forced to roll back into the garage after an aborted start at the exit of the pit lane but he did eventually post the seventh fastest time.

Hamilton was earlier left fuming when his car stopped at turn nine of his installation lap just five minutes into the first 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 personnell before retreating into his team’s facilities.

Romain Grosjean emerges from the cockpit of his Lotus after crashing

Romain Grosjean emerges from the cockpit of his Lotus after crashing

Mercedes later issued a statement saying that they had fixed a “calibration” problem with an oil pressure sensor that triggered the engine’s shut down.

Lotus, who missed the first test of the season because their car was not ready on time, barely made an appearance on Friday with neither of their drivers able to post a lap in the opening session.

Frenchman Romain Grosjean did emerge for 12 laps in the second session to finish with the second-slowest time of the 19 drivers that registered laps, but got two wheels on the grass, spun and damaged the suspension on the E22.

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen enjoyed the best day of the three F1 rookies, posting the ninth fastest time in the second practice, but Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson was unable to post a lap all day.

Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi’s F1 return with Caterham was also one to forget, as he failed to post a time in the first session and had to sit out the second as engineers worked on a fuel system problem. (Reuters)

Subbed by AJN.

Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne – Free Practice 2, Friday 14 March

Pos No Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.625 37
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:29.782 0.157 31
3 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:30.132 0.507 28
4 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:30.381 0.756 41
5 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:30.510 0.885 33
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:30.538 0.913 38
7 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:30.898 1.273 32
8 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:30.920 1.295 38
9 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.031 1.406 34
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:31.054 1.429 33
11 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:31.060 1.435 35
12 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:31.119 1.494 31
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:31.283 1.658 36
14 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.355 2.730 36
15 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:32.468 2.843 26
16 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:32.495 2.870 36
17 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:33.486 3.861 29
18 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:33.646 4.021 12
19 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:34.757 5.132 29
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault No time 1
21 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault No time 0
22 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault No time 0

  • Massimo Merebini

    What happened to all the gloom and doom about red bull , they ran ok in P2 .

  • Tamburello1994

    Agreed – Red Bull looks to have close the gap faster than most predicted. Give credit where it is due. Gonna LMAO is Vettel pulls it out after all the wailing that’s gone on. Lewis making an early statement.

  • lulu

    Horner has really been given us a load of blarney. Red Bull are the best at developing and pushing upgrades throughout a season so I can see them maybe catching Mercs regards car evolution.

  • fools

    Alonso looking strong. His pace Sunday should be good.

  • Peawee

    How are Red Bull suddenly all ok?………after claiming not knowing what their problems were……
    The golden rule when listening to Horner or Vettel is that whatever they say the exact opposite is the truth.

  • Amos James

    I can’t wait to see what the Ferrari’s fuel consumption and tyre life is like.