Everyone has been saying not much has changed in Formula 1® for the start of 2013 – and Sebastian Vettel underlined that fact by taking top spot in the first free practice session of the season at a sunny Albert Park.
The man who has been the sport’s #1 for the last three seasons went to the top two-thirds of the way through the 90-minute session with a lap in 1 minute 27.211 seconds for Red Bull Renault.
That’s over three-tenths of a second quicker than the best time in the corresponding session last year, set by eventual race-winner Jenson Button in the McLaren Mercedes.
Second-fastest was a man who needs a flying start to his own 2013 season. That’s Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who had a moment late in the session as he ran wide on the left through Turns 5 and 6 but had already clocked 1:27.289, just 0.076 off Vettel’s pace.
Fernando Alonso was next up in the sister Ferrari ahead of Lewis Hamilton, making a convincing start to his Mercedes career, with Mark Webber’s Red Bull fifth and Kimi Raikkonen sixth in the Lotus.
Those top six were the only men to go under 1:28 in the session.
Australia’s other representative Dan Ricciardo failed in his first bid to beat Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in this crucial year for both men. The Frenchman was 17th-quickest, two-tenths clear of the West Australian.
F1® returnee Adrian Sutil distinguished himself with a fine session that saw his Force India Mercedes finish eighth-quickest, the only driver from outside the ‘Big Five’ teams to be in the top 10.
Best of the five F1 newcomers in 15th place was new Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, the former GP3 champion, with a best lap of 1:29.928.