F1 Australia FP1 Results & Report: Webber Fastest at Albert Park

What Happens When It’s the Last Moment That Counts

11:42pm EST — The season opening day of on-track action dawned cool and dreary in Melbourne with a decent wind, but the track was dry when the drivers headed out. Though it took quite some time for any times to be set, the first practice session of the 2011 season ended with Mark Webber leading teammate Sebastian Vettel on the timesheets. Fernando Alonso was third fastest, with Nico Rosberg and Rubens Barrichello completing the fastest five. McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were quicker than expected from the team’s performance in winter testing, ending the session sixth and seventh, respectively. Neither HRT driver set a time, with the team using the session to prepare the new cars for running, with no testing time on their 2011 models.

Karun Chandhok was first out, in his role as one of many Lotus test/reserve drivers, and managed only three corners before losing the rear and crashing into the barrier, crumpling the nose and bouncing off the right rear. That incident did not cause a red flag. With the track so green, it would be quite some time before any driver set a timed lap. THirty-eight minutes into the session, Pastor Maldonado took the honor for Williams, with a 1:39.381. His time was soon overtaken by Massa and Sutil, with Ricciardo slower than his fellow rookie.

A few moments later, Massa went for an excursion through the gravel at Turn three, seemingly losing the rear and going straight instead of turning. Drivers continued to post installation laps and sit in the garage without posting times, with only nine drivers having set a lap time at the halfway point of the session.

Webber (1:29.552) led Massa, Hamilton, Button, Sutil, Maldonado, Hulkenberg, Buemi, and Ricciardo as the drivers with times at the halfway point. Quickly, though, it turned into a match between McLaren teammates Hamilton and Button over second fastest. Vettel’s first time, with just over a half hour remaining, took him to fifth fastest, but he was soon fastest of all. With a half hour left, Vettel led Webber, Button, Hamilton, and Barrichello as the top five. Alonso, Kobayashi, Schumacher, Heidfeld, Petrov, Rosberg, Glock, and the HRTs of Karthikeyan and Liuzzi had yet to set a time.

Schumacher was seventh fastest with his first timed lap, then teammate Rosberg was fastest of all in his first two sectors and suspiciously slow in the third sector, with Mercedes indicating on Twitter that he had “cut it to create a gap.” With twenty minutes left, there had yet to be any major incidents, but plenty of off-road excursions by drivers on a slippery track. Alonso was the only driver to not set a time, though he soon went tenth fastest on his first lap and sixth on his second.

Vettel (1:27.739) still led Webber with twenty minutes left, with Button, Hamilton, and Barrichello completing the fastest five. Minutes later, Alonso went second fastest, then quickened his pace again, lying just .010s off Vettel’s time with ten, then five minutes left. At that point, only Alonso, Kobayashi, Massa, Hulkenberg, Kovalainen, Glock, and the HRTs remained in the garage.

As the minutes ticked down, Vettel bettered his time, only to be pipped by three tenths at the end by Webber, as the teammates again put Red Bull 1-2 on top of the timesheets. Rosberg neatly slid his Mercedes in front of the two McLarens on the timesheets, to go fourth fastest. At the end, the times seemed as predictable as the final winter test in Barcelona could have made them: Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, with only the increased speed of the McLaren encouraging for the team.

Final Times for FP1, Australian GP:

Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:26.831 20
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:27.158 0.327 19
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:27.749 0.918 20
4. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP 1:28.152 1.321 16
5. Rubens Barrichello Williams 1:28.430 1.599 24
6. Jenson Button McLaren 1:28.440 1.609 29
7. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:28.483 1.652 26
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP 1:28.690 1.859 14
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:28.725 1.894 13
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault 1:28.765 1.934 15
11. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:28.842 2.011 20
12. Nick Heidfeld Renault 1:28.928 2.097 14
13. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:29.314 2.483 19
14. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso 1:29.328 2.497 21
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:29.403 2.572 24
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:29.468 2.637 23
17. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:29.643 2. 812 18
18. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:31.002 4.171 20
19. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus 1:32.428 5.597 13
20. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing 1:35.282 8.451 17
21. Timo Glock Virgin Racing 1:35.289 8.458 15
22. Karun Chandhok Lotus N/A N/A 1
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT N/A N/A N/A
24. Tonio Liuzzi HRT N/A N/A N/A

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