Melbourne Practice 2: Vettel and Red Bull own day one

Sebastian Vettel on top in Melbourne

Sebastian Vettel on top in Melbourne

The early signs are ominous for the pretenders to the Formula 1 throne as world champions Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel effortlessly dominated day one of 2013 world championship season opener in Melbourne, ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel topped the timing screens at the end of both sessions at Albert Park, and with local hero Mark Webber second fastest in FP2 it is quite clear that the champions have hit the ground running in the defence of their title.

Vettel’s best lap time of 1:25.908 compares to Jenson Button’s best time last year of 1:27.560 at the end of day one in Melbourne – the class of 2013 have found 1.5 seconds during the course of twelve months.

Behind the purplish cars the battle for the best of the rest, on the day, was between Lotus, Mercedes and Ferrari.

For Mercedes, it was a torrid final dozen minutes as first Lewis Hamilton went straight in Turn 6 and ended up with the front of the W03 nudging the tyre wall, his session ending there and then. At the time he was attacking and looking good for a top time.

Local hero Mark Webber ended FP2 second quickest

Local hero Mark Webber ended FP2 second quickest

Minutes later Rosberg parked his car with what appeared to be a gearbox problem, nevertheless the German was third quickest when the chequered flag dropped. Hamilton was seventh.

The Lotus pair showed strongly with Kimi Raikkonen a tad faster than Romain Grosjean as they ended the day fourth and fifth respectively.

Ferrari are looking a lot stronger this time around than they did 12 months ago. Fernando Alonso ending sixth fastest and Felipe Massa eighth – the pair split on the timing screens by Hamilton.

Adrian Sutil will be pleased with a faultless return to Force India, after a year on the sidelines, ending the session ninth best and again (as he did in the morning) getting the better of teammate Paul di Resta who was 12th.

Nico Rosberg third quickest

Nico Rosberg third quickest

Rounding out the top ten was Nico Hulkenberg in the Sauber. Rookie teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 15th, good enough to be fastest of the rookies.

McLaren were alarmingly down the order with Jenson Button, who complained about lack of grip during a chat to his crew over the radio, was 11th and the team’s new driver Sergio Perez 13th. Clearly the two have yet to find the MP4-28’s sweet spot.

Williams were also relatively subdued as their package is expected to be the best of the midfield pack, this was not in evidence on day one around the street circuit. Pastor Maldonado was 16th and Valtteri Bottas 18th.

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen fourth quickest

At the rear end of proceedings Jules Bianchi again was a second faster than his fellow rookie and Marussia teammate Max Chilton.

Giedo van der Garde was an early casualty, when he beached his Catreham in Turn 3 with a mere 11 laps on his chart. He ended the day slowest of all.

Free Practice 2 Results, Melbourne – Friday, 15 March 2013

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.908 33
2 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:26.172 0.264 31
3 9 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.322 0.414 26
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:26.361 0.453 38
5 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.680 0.772 32
6 3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:26.748 0.840 35
7 10 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.772 0.864 28
8 4 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.855 0.947 32
9 15 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:27.435 1.527 35
10 11 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.187 2.279 34
11 5 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.294 2.386 30
12 14 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:28.311 2.403 37
13 6 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.566 2.658 33
14 19 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:28.627 2.719 31
15 12 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.772 2.864 33
16 16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:28.852 2.944 36
17 18 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:28.968 3.060 36
18 17 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:29.386 3.478 39
19 22 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:29.696 3.788 32
20 20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:30.165 4.257 37
21 23 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.600 4.692 36
22 21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:32.450 6.542 11