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Practice One - McLaren set the Melbourne standard 16 Mar 2012

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-27.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Williams FW34.
Formula One World Championship, Australian Grand Prix, Rd1, Practice Day, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012 Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2012.
Formula One World Championship, Rd1, Australian Grand Prix, Practice, Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia, Friday, 16 March 2012

Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton led the way for McLaren in Australia as the 2012 Formula One season officially got underway at Albert Park on Friday afternoon.

The 2009 world champion pipped the 2008 title holder by 0.245s with a lap of 1m 27.560s to 1m 27.805s, leaving the silver cars 0.6s ahead of another one, Michael Schumacher’s Mercedes. The F1 W03’s passive nasal F-duct had been cleared as legal by the FIA, and Schumacher was right on the pace to set the fastest time of 1m 28.235s, once the track dried after a heavy rain shower minutes before the session began at 12.30 local time.

That held up for third as the McLarens, which had stayed in the pits for a long time, came out to run hard. Fernando Alonso showed strong form for Ferrari with 1m 28.360s for fourth ahead of Mark Webber who was Red Bull’s leader on 1m 28.467s as Sebastian Vettel languished in 11th on 1m 29.790s.

Between them came Nico Rosberg on 1m 28.683s in the second Mercedes; early pacesetter Daniel Ricciardo on 1m 28.908s in the lead Toro Rosso, Pastor Maldonado in the Williams on 1m 29.415s; Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus on 1m 29.565s, and Kamui Kobayashi in the lead Sauber on 1m 29.722s.

Raikkonen’s time was praiseworthy as he spent most of the session in the pits after his steering column needed replacement.

Behind Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg moved ahead of Force India team mate Paul di Resta late in the session, with 1m 29.865s to 1m 29.881s, then came Williams’ Bruno Senna on 1m 29.953s; Sauber’s Sergio Perez on 1m 30.124s; Lotus’s Romain Grosjean on 1m 30.515s; Heikki Kovalainen in the lead Caterham on 1m 30.586s; and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa on 1m 30.743s. The Brazilian’s year got off to a bad start as he spun in Turn 10 and beached his F2012.

Jean-Eric Vergne traded times early on with Toro Rosso team mate Ricciardo but was only 19th in the line-up on 1m 31.178s ahead of Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov on 1m 31.983s, and the new and untried Marussias of Timo Glock and Charles Pic in 1m 34.730s and 1m 40.256s. Right at the back, neither HRT got a time. Narain Karthikeyan did three laps before rolling to a halt, while Pedro de la Rosa didn’t get out at all.

It’s far too early to draw conclusions about the respective performances, but at least the season is now underway…

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