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Alonso fastest in Oz first practice

2014-03-14 07:54

MERCEDES TESTS RECOVERY VEHICLE: Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton's car is lifted off the track on its first lap of qualifying for the 2014 Australian F1 GP. The problem was oil pressure - and probably severe frustration. Image: AFP

IAN RANSOM

MELBOURNE, Australia - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso topped the time sheets in the first free practice session ahead of the 2014 Australian Formula 1 GP on Friday as reliability problems saw the new season open with a whimper rather than a bang.

He posted 1min31.840 with a half-hour of the 90-minute session left and held his half-second lead over McLaren's second-placed Jenson Button in brilliant sunshine at Albert Park.

Top qualifying time in 2013 was 1min27.407.

After winter testing in which teams struggled to come to terms with the new turbocharged hybrid engines drivers spent much of the session cooling their heels in the garages while technicians tinkered.

MERCEDES HAULED OFF

The biggest surprise of the session was trouble for Mercedes, which arrived full of optimism after promising winter testing. Having batted away the favourites to win the season-opener tag, Lewis Hamilton was left fuming when his car stopped at turn nine of his installation lap just five minutes into the session.

With the vehicle hauled off by a tow-truck, the 29-year-old Briton walked back to the paddock without taking off his helmet and suffered the indignity of being stopped by security before retreating into his team's tent.

Mercedes later issued a statement clarifying that his car had come to an automatic halt triggered by an oil pressure alarm and added that further investigation was needed.
 
Mercedes-powered Williams fared better, Valtteri Bottas posting the third-fastest time, and his new team mate Felipe Massa shrugging off a radio malfunction to be fourth-quickest.

SKID FOR LOTUS

Red Bull, which endured dismal winter testing, had an encouraging first session, with new driver Daniel Ricciardo fifth and faster than 2013 champion Sebastian Vettel, who was seventh.

Hamilton's team mate Nico Rosberg was sixth for Mercedes and Kimi Raikkonen, taking his first run for Ferrari since returning to Maranello, was ninth after eighth-placed McLaren debutant Kevin Magnussen.

Lotus waited until 20 minutes before the end of the session before making an appearance. Pastor Maldonado managed only an installation lap before taking a skid through some gravel and coming to a halt in the pits lane.

He and team mate Romain Grosjean were among five drivers who failed to post a lap time, suggesting plenty of work to be done before the second practice session.

Stay with Wheels24 for the first 2014 F1 race in Australia this weekend.

Times from the first free-practice session ahead of the 2014 Australian F1 GP on Friday March 14

1 Fernando Alonso (Spain) Ferrari 1min31.840
2 Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1min32.357
3 Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1min32.403
4 Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1min32.431
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull - Renault 1min32.599
6 Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 1min32.604
7 Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Red Bull - Renault 1min32.793
8 Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) McLaren 1min32.847
9 Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 1min32.977
10 Jean-Eric Vergne (France) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min33.446
11 Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) Force India - Mercedes 1min33.533
12 Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India - Mercedes 1min33.855
13 Danill Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso - Renault 1min34.272
14 Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Sauber - Ferrari 1min35.578
15 Adrian Sutil (Germany) Sauber - Ferrari 1min36.445
16 Jules Bianchi (France) Marussia - Ferrari 1min40.859
17 Max Chilton (Britain) Marussia - Ferrari 1min46.922

No times set:
18 Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Caterham - Renault
19 Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes
20 Kamui Kobayashi (Japan) Caterham - Renault
21 Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) Lotus - Renault
22 Romain Grosjean (France) Lotus - Renault
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