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2012-03-16 06:30

AH, SEE SENORITA: There'll be extra interest in the Marussia-Cosworth pit through the 2012 F1 season - win or lose - with the arrival of stunning Spanish test-driver Maria de Villota of Spain. Image: AFP

MELBOURNE, Australia - Jenson Button led a McLaren 1-2 as the British team eclipsed rivals during Friday’s first practice for the 2012 Australian GP.

The 32-year-old Englishman outpaced compatriot Lewis Hamilton by 0.2sec in the final moments of a slow-burning session that reached its climax with just minutes remaining at Albert Park.

Seven-times champion Michael Schumacher, 43, was third-quickest for Mercedes ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso as the top four spots were filled by four of the six series winners on the grid this year.


Defending double champion Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) was down in 11th place after deciding not to contest the scrap for immediate glory in his new Red Bull car, which he has dubbed Abbey.

Team mate and local hero Mark Webber was fifth fastest ahead of German Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Ross) whose presence makes this the first Australian GP with two home-boy drivers.

Venezuela's Pastor Maldonado (Williams) was eighth, returning 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus) ninth and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber) 10th.

Alonso's Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa spun off and finished 18th but ahead of the two luckless Hispania cars – neither set a time.


The session was run in damp conditions after torrential overnight rain. After three days of heat the season's opening practice began at 20 degrees and the opening minutes saw little real action as the teams adjusted to the conditions. Only mid-session did they fit dry tyres.

By then, unfortunately for the struggling Hispania team, India's Narain Karthikeyan had already earned the unwanted statistic of being the first driver to stop in 2012. He went off and immediately switched off the engine.

This was a minor catastrophe for the team as Karthikeyan was driving their only complete car; the second as still being assembled in the pits for Spanish veteran Pedro de la Rosa.

Massa also delivered a spectacular 'off' as the leading teams began to push harder in the closing stages. He drove off across the grass and spun into the gravel where his car beached - a setback for Ferrari which is trying to be fast and reliable enough to be in the 20121 title fight.

First free practice times from the 2012 Australian F1 GP at Albert Park in Melbourne

1 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min27.560
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) McLaren 1min27.805
3 Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes 1min28.235
4 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min28.360
5 Mark Webber (Australia) Red Bull 1min28.467
6 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min28.683
7 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Toro Rosso 1min28.908
8 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Williams 1min29.415
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Lotus 1min29.565
10 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Sauber 1min29.722
11 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull 1min29.790
12 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min29.865
13 Paul Di Resta (Britain) Force India 1min29.881
14 Bruno Senna (Brazil) Williams 1min29.953
15 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Sauber 1min30.124
16 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min30.515
17 Heikki Kovalainen (Finland) Caterham 1min30.586
18 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Ferrari 1min30.743
19 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso 1min31.178
20 Vitaly Petrov (Russia) Caterham 1min31.983
21 Timo Glock (Germany) Marussia 1min34.730
22 Charles Pic (France) Marussia 1min40.256
23 Narain Karthikeyan (India) HRT
24 Pedro de la Rosa (Spain) HRT

Stay with Wheels24 for the Formula 1 weekend.

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