Practice reveals the teething problems in Melbourne.
The first practice session ahead of the Australian Grand Prix started in the rain on Friday morning (UK time). The teams were slow to get their cars out on the track but after some adjustments and tyre changes most of the drivers got some practice time.
The Hispania Racing Team (HRT) barely used their car during pre-season testing and Pedro de la Rosa hadn’t even driven it before the green light at Friday’s session. His team-mate Narain Karthikeyan is joining him in putting on a smile for the cameras, but inside they both must know how difficult this season will be. The Indian had to pull his car up on the side of the road when it broke down a few minutes into their first time out on the damp track. HRT will clearly be using Sunday’s race as a major test event to make up for the lack of winter activity.
Most of the drivers chose to run on intermediate tyres or full wets, allowing for more grip, at the start but that didn’t stop Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg sliding wide at several grassy corners on his opening lap.
Ferrari’s Alonso pushed hard early on to record a good time in the wet conditions, while completing some aerodynamic tests at the same time. A 1.37.951 put him a full two seconds ahead of his competition, who were sitting on their pit walls for most of practice to shelter from the rain. However, Rosberg was already out and the young German set a new fastest time almost immediately.
Early signs of a row are brewing in the pits already it seems, with Red Bull and Ferrari complaining about illegal air ducts on the Mercedes’ rear wing.
Novices Charles Pic (Marussia) and Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) took to the track for the first time and seemed to cope well enough. Pic managed one lap in the new car, 26 seconds off the pace, before returning to the safety and warmth of the garage.
The weather soon brightened up and Michael Schumacher set a quick time of 1.29.656, blowing away the 2011 cobwebs.
Marussia were struggling for good data as Virgin last year, but their car was designed solely using a liquid graphics template on a computer, and the tests were more effective.
Lewis Hamilton took the bright sky as a chance to hit the tarmac and was joined by Jenson Button very quickly. The McLaren cars have reported no external changes to their equipment so surely something is working better than it did last season for them.
The teams will get two more practice sessions before Sunday.
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This article was first posted on March 16, 2012