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Australian GP 2012

MARCH 16, 2012

Practice 1 Report - McLaren 1-2 in first Melbourne practice

Jenson Button, Australian GP 2012
© The Cahier Archive

The waiting is finally over as the 2012 F1 field ran in anger for the first time in Melbourne with the new McLaren MP4-27s of Jenson Button (1:27.560) and Lewis Hamilton (1:27.805) finishing the session first and second.

The session started wet, with the field on intermediate tyres, but dried out to the extent that Button's fastest lap was just 0.8s down on the fastest free practice time from Melbourne last year, run of course without exhaust exit restrictions.

It's way too early to start drawing any conclusions from times, but if you're McLaren you'd rather be quick than slow, so it looks like a good start.

Third fastest was Michael Schumacher's Mercedes W03 (1:28.235), ahead of Fernando Alonso's enthusiastically-driven Ferrari F2012 (1:28.360). Mark Webber was fifth quickest (1:28.467) with the first of the Red Bull RB8s, from Nico Rosberg (1:28.683) in the second Mercedes.

Perth-born Daniel Ricciardo (1:28.908) cheered the home spectators with seventh quickest lap in the first of the Toro Rosso STR7s, half a second clear of Pastor Maldonado's Williams (1:29.415).

Kimi Raikkonen missed most of the session, the Finn not liking the feel from the Lotus steering rack. In eight laps at the end of the session, however, the 2007 Melbourne winner set a 1:29.565s lap, good enough for ninth fastest.

Kamui Kobayashi (1:29.722), spectacular as ever in the Sauber, completed the top 10, ahead of double world champion Sebastian Vettel (1:29.790), who doubtless has not yet revealed his potential as he finished up 1.3s behind team mate Webber.

Many are predicting a keen inter-team battle at Force India this year and it looks like it might have already started, with Nico Hulkenberg (1:29.865) and Paul Di Resta (1:29.881) 12th and 13th, split by just two hundredths of a second.

Felipe Massa got his season off to a bad start when he braked with a wheel on the grass at Turn 9 and put his Ferrari into the gravel.

HRT was up against it, as expected with no pre-season testing. Narain Karthikeyan ground to a halt without setting a time, while Pedro de la Rosa's chassis failed to make it out, the team hoping to get the Spaniard running in FP2.