Opening practice for title favourite Lewis Hamilton lasted just minutes in Melbourne
Mercedes star's W05 stops on track; Alonso tops session for Ferrari
By Mike Wise in Melbourne. Last Updated: 14/03/14 8:29am
Opening practice for world title favourite Lewis Hamilton lasted less than five minutes before reliability problems intervened in Melbourne on Friday.
Lauded pre-season for both their pace and reliability, Mercedes instead became the first team to suffer a breakdown as the 2014 new-look F1 season officially got up and running. Hamilton managed just one lap of the 5.303km Albert Park track before his W05 car ground to a halt.
With the 2008 World Champion forced to hitch a lift back to the pits on the back of a motorbike, he was at least met by some good news: Mercedes diagnosed an oil pressure sensor failure, which triggered an engine shutdown but will not necessitate a replacement power unit. As such, Hamilton is expected to take part in second practice later on.
Surprises are anticipated this weekend and the Silver Arrow's early struggle was certainly the first. Another, arguably, was the reliability shown by Red Bull. Daniel Ricciardo completed 26 laps on his way to setting the fifth fastest time, with Sebastian Vettel seventh overall. The defending World Champion did not make an appearance for well over an hour but when he did, he managed ten laps without incident.
Fastest overall was Fernando Alonso's Ferrari, ahead of Jenson Button's McLaren, with Williams pair Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa third and fourth fastest respectively. Sandwiching the Red Bull pair was the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, with Kevin Magnussen (McLaren), Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) and Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) completing the top ten.
There was no surprise, however, in the problems experienced by Lotus. Romain Grosjean didn't even take to the track and although new team-mate Pastor Maldonado managed to so, he trundled back into the pits after just one lap - his car having lost power. The Venezuelan complained of locking brakes and smoke was also seen in the cockpit of his E22.
Despite talk of the trouble and strife the sport's technical changes might bring, the session was in fact fairly busy. The decision to provide cars with an extra set of tyres for the opening 30 minutes lured everyone bar Vettel, Maldonado and Grosjean out, although there were also clear signs that the pain is far from over.
Caterham, for example, really struggled, with Marcus Ericsson's debut lasting just one lap before a problem with his Renault ERS battery intervened, while a fuel system problem also limited team-mate Kamui Kobayashi to just an installation lap.
Out on track, meanwhile, drivers are still coming to terms with the sorts of glitches the switch to hybrid power are creating. Both Toro Rossos, for example, left the track several times, suggesting brake-by-wire problems, while the extra torque on tap might explain a quick spin for Force India's Sergio Perez.
Not quite the sort of Doomsday scenarios that Charlie Whiting spoke of, then, but these are still very early days. Second practice starts at 5.30am (GMT).
2014 Australian GP, Practice One timesheet:
1. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:31.840.
2. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:32.357.
3. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:32.403.
4. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:32.431.
5. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:32.599.
6. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:32.604.
7. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:32.793.
8. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:32.847.
9. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:32.977.
10. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:33.446.
11. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:33.533.
12. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:33.855.
13. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:34.272.
14. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:35.578.
15. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, 1:36.445.
16. Jules Bianchi, Marussia, 1:40.859.
17. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:46.922.
18. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, No time.
19. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, No time.
20. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, No time.
21. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, No time.
22. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, No time.