Fernando Alonso kicked off F1’s new era in Melbourne with fastest time in the first Free Practice session for Ferrari, ahead of Britain’s Jenson Button in the McLaren.
The Spaniard hit the front half way through the ninety minute session and never relinquished it, as several drivers failed to set lap times. Lewis Hamilton was the first – surprise – casualty when he stopped on track with what appeared to be a Mercedes engine failure, though it was later confirmed by the team the power unit was undamaged and the cause elsewhere. Both Caterhams and the Lotus duo of Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean were unable to set a laptime, the Venezuelan venturing onto the circuit only to pull into the pits after a hair-raising slow lap with smoke filling his cockpit.
There was some cheer for Red Bull as Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel took 5th and 7th places, while Williams were buoyed by 3rd and 4th positions for Felipe Massa and Valterri Bottas as the striking FW36 made its debut in the new Martini livery.
Jean Eric Vergne made the only notable off-track excursion when he ran into the turn three gravel trap in the dying moments of the session, but the Toro Rosso driver escaped without incident.
CLASSIFICATION – FREE PRACTICE ONE – 2014 AUSTRALIAN GP
(FIA timing screen screenshot)