Mercedes sent out a clear message to their rivals by going fastest in the first Free Practice session in Australia.
Nico Rosberg set the fastest lap-time – a 1:29.557 – to end FP1 just under three hundredths clear of team-mate and reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton. His time was, in turn, over a second faster than anything their nearest rival could manage. Valtteri Bottas ended the session third fastest on a 1:30.748.
At the start of the session most cars took to the track for installation laps apart from the Sauber pair of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, and Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi at Manor. Despite making it to Australia against all odds, Manor are still facing a number of hurdles if they are to actually make the grid on Sunday. With no testing completed they are facing problems teams would have sorted during the three pre-season tests. The team hope they’ll be able to get up and running in time for Free Practice Three tomorrow morning.
For Sauber it was a different story as the team face legal proceedings by former driver Giedo van der Garde. The court ruled that van der Garde should be driving the Sauber and an appeal by the team was thrown out. They were not allowed to touch the cars during the first practice session and as a result, despite being strapped in and ready to go, neither Nasr nor Ericsson got any running in the first practice session.
Elsewhere it was an impressive debut for Carlos Sainz at Toro Rosso after he set the fourth fastest time of the morning. He also completed a significant number of laps – as did team-mate Max Verstappen – as they got to grips with the circuit. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was sandwiched between the two Toro Rosso drivers in fifth, with Bottas’ team-mate Felipe Massa ending the session seventh. Kimi Raikkonen ended up eighth with Pastor Maldonado and Daniel Ricciardo also in the top ten.
McLaren’s session ended with just 13 laps completed between Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen. They revealed that their early end to FP1 was due to a small mechanical issue with a power-unit component. Their lap-times saw Button finish 14th and Magnussen 15th. Romain Grosjean rounded up the times after sitting out most of the session due to an unspecified problem.
Free Practice 1 Times:
- Nico Rosberg – Mercedes – 1:29.557 – 19 laps
- Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes – 1:29.586 – 19 laps
- Valtteri Bottas – Williams – 1:30.748 – 20 laps
- Carlos Sainz – Toro Rosso – 1:31.014 – 32 laps
- Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari – 1:31.029 – 13 laps
- Max Verstappen – Toro Rosso – 1:31.067 – 31 laps
- Felipe Massa – Williams – 1:31.188 – 19 laps
- Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari – 1:31.310 – 14 laps
- Pastor Maldonado – Lotus – 1:31.451 – 22 laps
- Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull – 1:31.570 – 9 laps
- Daniil Kvyat – Red Bull – 1:32.073 – 18 laps
- Sergio Perez – Force India – 1:32.247 – 22 laps
- Nico Hulkenberg – Force India – 1:32.261 – 19 laps
- Jenson Button – McLaren – 1:34.542 – 6 laps
- Kevin Magnussen – McLaren – 1:34.785 – 7 laps
- Romain Grosjean – Lotus – 2:17.782 – 5 laps
- Felipe Nasr – Sauber – No Time Set – 0 laps
- Marcus Ericsson – Sauber – No Time Set – 0 laps
- Will Stevens – Manor – No Time Set – 0 laps
- Roberto Merhi – Manor – No Time Set – 0 laps