World champion Sebastian Vettel took up where he left off last season as Red Bull dominated opening practice today ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
Vettel – bidding for a fourth consecutive world drivers’ crown – posted the fastest times in both practice sessions,settling with a best of one minute 25.908 seconds in the afternoon to stake his claim for Sunday’s Melbourne race.
Australian Mark Webber completed an emphatic one-two for the champion Red Bull team as main title rivals Ferrari and McLaren struggled.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso – edged out by Vettel in last year’s championship – finished 0.840 secs behind the fastest lap,while last season’s Melbourne winner Jenson Button was well down in 11th place in his McLaren.
McLaren’s Team principal Martin Whitmarsh said the team was “struggling to understand” their new car and were lacking grip.
Coupled with Webber’s speed in the team’s other car,Red Bull has the upper hand ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying for grid positions in the season opener.
Lewis Hamilton,driving for Mercedes,clocked the seventh best lap time of 1:26.772 before he ran off the circuit.
German Nico Rosberg ran an encouraging third (1:26.322) for Mercedes but his afternoon session finished early with gearbox trouble.
Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in a Lotus ahead of French teammate Romain Grosjean.