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Practice One - Webber leads Red Bull one-two in Australia 25 Mar 2011

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 1, Australian Grand Prix, Preparations, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, 24 March 2011 Chandhok's return to F1 as reserve at Lotus doesn't last long after this crash on his first lap Alonso guides his Ferrari around the Albert Park track Hulkenberg has a big lock-up Maldonado makes the step up from GP2, partnering Barrichello at Williams

The 2011 F1 season finally kicked off this morning in Melbourne’s Albert Park - with a bang. Test driver Karun Chandhok got as far as Turn Four on his out lap before losing grip and cannoning into the wall, severely damaging his Lotus T128.

After that, it took more than half an hour before Pastor Maldonado in the Williams became the first man to set a lap time. Soon, however, Red Bull moved to the front as expected, with Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel taking it in turns to go fastest until the Australian slammed in a 1m 26.831s best right at the end to beat the German’s 1m 27.158s by 0.327s.

Behind them, the surprising McLarens gave chase initially before conserving their rubber for the rest of the session, and that meant that Fernando Alonso came through for third in the Ferrari with 1m 27.749s.

There was great encouragement down at Mercedes, where Nico Rosberg set the fourth fastest time of 1m 28.152s, and also at Williams after Rubens Barrichello’s 1m 28.430s best moved him ahead of the McLarens. Jenson Button lapped his MP4-26, with revised exhausts and floor, in a promising 1m 28.440s early on, with Lewis Hamilton seventh on 1m 28.483s.

Michael Schumacher’s 1m 28.690s left him eighth ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, who jumped up the order with 1m 28.725s for Sauber, while Vitaly Petrov was Renault’s faster runner on 1m 28.765s. Team mate Nick Heidfeld was 12th on 1m 28.928s, separated from the Russian by his former Sauber team mate Felipe Massa, who flat spotted a front Pirelli after posting a 1m 28.842s best.

Tyre wear on both the hard, but especially the soft, Pirelli was as significant as expected, with Vettel in particular rooting a set of the latter after an early five-lap sortie.

Behind the fast set, Adrian Sutil was 13th for Force India on 1m 29.314s, then came Sebastien Buemi for Toro Rosso on 1m 29.328s, Maldonado on 1m 29.403s, an impressive Daniel Ricciardo on 1m 29.468s in Jaime Alguersuari’s Toro Rosso, Sergio Perez in the second Sauber on 1m 29.643s, Nico Hulkenberg in Paul di Resta’s Force India on 1m 31.002s, and Heikki Kovalainen’s Lotus on 1m 32.428s.

The Virgins were off the pace, with Jerome D’Ambrosio lapping his MVR-02 in 1m 35.282s ahead of team mate Timo Glock on 1m 35.289s.

Chandhok did not take further part after his early indiscretion, while neither of the HRTs ran as their rear ends were still being built up. The team hopes to make it out in time for FP2.

In a joint initiative, all the teams are carrying bespoke stickers on their cars in Melbourne as a mark of respect for the casualties of the recent earthquake in Japan. And in a regulatory development, with wet running looking possible here, the FIA has decided that in the interests of safety drivers may not use their adjustable rear wings when on wet or intermediate tyres.

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