ANOTHER MERC SHOW: Nico Rosberg (above) dominated the second practice session ahead of the 2015 Australian F1 GP. Will it be another Merc whitewash in Melbourne? Image: AP / Manu Fernandez
MELBOURNE, Australia - Mercedes dominated both Friday practice sessions ahead of the season-opening 2015 Australian GP as other teams wrestled with mechanical problems - and even a legal dispute.
Nico Rosberg set the fastest time during the second practice session - as he did in the first - at Melbourne's Albert Park circuit, just a 0.1sec ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton, as the team lived up to expectations of continued dominance in 2015.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were next fastest but well off Mercedes' pace. Third-placed Vettel was seven-tenths behind Rosberg.
Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo had to miss the second session after an engine replacement, a serious concern as new regulations restrict each car to four engines for the season before penalties kick in.
Williams' Felipe Massa also missed the session due to a water leak and Toro Rosso's 17-year-old rookie Max Verstappen barely participated in the second session due to a reported battery issue.
Such teething problems are common at the season-opening grands prix and were predictable for McLaren, which has struggled throughout pre-season testing with its new Honda 'power unit'.
While Jenson Button was able to do some sustained running in the second session, 1.4sec off the top pace, Kevin Magnussen crashed into a tyre wall. Magnussen is standing in for Fernando Alonso, who will miss the season-opening race while recuperating from a crash during a controversial pre-season crash.
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was fifth-fastest in the second session, ahead of Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat. Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz Jnr, Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, and Force India's Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10.
SAUBER'S LEGAL ROW
Sauber skipped the earlier session due to an ongoing legal dispute with driver Giedo van der Garde but Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr each drove in the second session for the team.
Van der Garde maintains he was promised a seat with Sauber for the 2015 season but the team dumped him in favour of Ericsson and Nasr in November 2014. A Supreme Court judge in the Australian state of Victoria ruled on Wednesday (March 11) that Van der Garde should race in Melbourne and another hearing is scheduled for Saturday (March 14).
The Manor team, having been taken out of administration by new owners, took no part as it scrambled to make its car ready. Even if the team does manage to get going for qualifying on Saturday, it looks unlikely to achieve a lap time fast enough to be able to race.
2015 Australian GP practice times
1 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min27.697
2 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1min27.797
3 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 1min28.412
4 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min28.842
5 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams 1min29.265
6 Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Red Bull 1min30.016
7 Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso 1min30.071
8 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus 1min30.104
9 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus 1min30.205
10 Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India 1min30.473
11 Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber 1min30.755
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India 1min30.980
13 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min31.387
14 Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Toro Rosso 1min31.395
15 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber 1min32.303
16 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren 1min33.289
17 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - Renault N/A
18 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams N/A
19 Will Stevens (Britain) Marussia N/A
20 Roberto Merhi (Spain) Marussia N/A
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Australian GP weekend!