EARLY ON TRACK: Williams driver Felipe Massa heads out on to the track on March 13 at Albert Park for first practice for the 2015 Australian F1 GP. Image: AP / Rob Griffith
MELBOURNE, Australia - Mercedes dominated the first free practice session of the 2015 Formula 1 season-opening Australian GP on Friday.
Nico Rosberg edged out his 2014 Drivers' champion team mate Lewis Hamilton to top the time sheets.
Rosberg, 2014 Drivers' championship runner-up, rolled out of the garage early to set the fastest lap of 1min29.557 on a glorious day at Albert Park, beating Hamilton by a little under three-tenths and underlining the 2014 Constructors' champion's ominous form through winter testing.
Other teams struggled. Williams' Valtteri Bottas was the best of the rest though the Finn's fastest lap was almost 1.2sec shy of last year's race-winner Rosberg.
Toro Rosso's rookies, Carlos Sainz and 17-year-old Max Verstappen - the latter to become F1's youngest race driver on Sunday - also impressed. Sainz finished fourth-fastest, Verstappen sixth behind four-times champion Sebastian Vettel who is making his debut with Ferrari.
Gloom at McLaren, a team dogged by reliability problems during winter testing, spread to the track as Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, sitting in for Fernando Alonso, finished slowest of the 15 cars that registered flying laps.
SAUBER COURT BATTLE
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, the only driver to win in 2014 apart from the Mercedes pair, was 10th fastest and pulled the first spin of the season.
Sauber, intrigue still hanging over it because of its court battle with dumped Dutchman Giedo van der Garde, did not hit the track.
Van der Garde was at Albert Park, suited up and apparently ready to drive, after winning a court case against Sauber to be allowed to drive for the team. Sauber's nominated drivers, Swede Marcus Ericsson and Brazilian Felipe Nasr, weree in the cars but did not head out on to the circuit.
Manor Marussia, having only recently emerged from administration, was unable to put either of its cars on the track.
Times from the first practice session ahead of the 2015 Australian F1 GPStay with Wheels24 for the 2015 F1 season – fresh reports every day.
1 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min29.557
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min29.586
3 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min30.748
4 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso-Renault 1min31.014
5 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min31.029
6 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso-Renault 1min31.067
7 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min31.188
8 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min31.310
9 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus-Mercedes 1min31.451
10 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull-Renault 1min31.570
11 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull-Renault 1min32.073
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India-Mercedes 1min32.247
13 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India-Mercedes 1min32.261
14 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min34.542
15 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren 1min34.785
16 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus-Mercedes 2min17.782
17 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber-Ferrari No time
18 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber-Ferrari No time
19 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia-Ferrari No time
20 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia-Ferrari No time