Nico Rosberg topped the timing screens in both FP1 and FP2, on the first day of the Formula 1 season opening Australian Grand Prix, with teammate Lewis Hamilton a tenth off the top time at the end of FP2 as reigning world champions Mercedes stamped their authority over their in Melbourne.
Rosberg’s best time of 1:27.697, set on the soft tyre, was a tenth quicker than Hamilton’s, set on the same rubber.
The Mercedes pair were the only drivers to get under the 1m28s barrier, with third-placed Sebastian Vettel finishing six tenths of a second off Hamilton’s pace. The new Ferrari recruit also beat out team-mate Kimi Raikkonen by an impressive four tenths of a second.
After finishing third in the first session, Valtteri Bottas slipped to fifth as he focused on ling runs during the second session. His was the only Williams on track, however, as team-mate Felipe Massa was sidelined by a water leak on his car for the whole session.
Williams weren’t the only team to field just one car in the second session. Daniel Ricciardo was hampered in the morning by a hydraulic issue and the need to replace his power unit in the later afternoon meant that he was unable to take part in second practice.
Ricciardo’s team-mate Daniil Kvyat finished sixth behind Bottas, though the Red Bull Racing driver was more than seven tenths adrift of the Finn’s best time.
In the earlier session, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz finished in fourth place but in the second session the son of two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sr, finished in seventh sport, just a few hundredths of a second clear of Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado.
The Venezuelan was followed by team-mate Romain Grosjean who recovered from technical issues in the morning to log 36 laps in the second session. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top ten with a time 2.5s down on Rosberg’s best.
Under the cloud of Sauber versus Giedo van der Garde saga and after sitting out the first session, both the team’s new drivers took to the track in the late afternoon period, with Felipe Nasr finishing in 11th position. It was a less happy session for team-mate Marcus Ericsson. The Sweded suffered a suspension failure on his car early in the session and took no further part.
McLaren too had a difficult session, with Kevin Magnussen crashing out after just four laps. The Dane slid off track at Turn 6 and damaged the left side of the car to the extent that he was unable to rejoin the action.
Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park – Friday, Free Practice 2