Nico Rosberg and Mercedes sent out another ominous message to their rivals by dominating the final practice session ahead of the Australian Grand Prix. The German was a staggering 1.3 seconds clear of second placed Jenson Button with Mercedes only denied a 1-2 by a Lewis Hamilton mistake on his option tyre run.
Reliability remains a major concern up and down the pitlane with Esteban Gutierrez suffering a gearbox problem on his installation lap, necessitating a change and five-place grid penalty later on. Valtteri Bottas encountered a similar problem which prevented him going out at all and the Finn heads into qualifying with a similar handicap.
Crosswinds were creating havoc as drivers flew off the road on a regular basis but Rosberg serenely went about his business, setting a 1:29.375 on the soft compound tyres. Just behind him, Hamilton was going even faster but shortly after setting the fastest first sector of all, the Briton slid off at turn nine and lost the chance to challenge his teammate. Jenson Button made an identical error to his compatriot on two separate occasions during the session but he produced a lap good enough for second on his option tyre run.
Fernando Alonso kept up Ferrari’s solid start to the weekend by pipping Hamilton for third while Daniel Ricciardo took fifth for Red Bull. Nico Hulkenberg showed Force India’s potential by going sixth quickest ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, Kevin Magnussen and teammate Sergio Perez while Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten with a time set on the medium tyres. Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel finished down twelfth after a mistake-filled lap on the softer rubber.
There was relief all round at Caterham as Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson finally turned a wheel in anger but Lotus’ misery continued. Romain Grosjean failed, not only to set a time, but control his temper as a misfire hampered his programme while Pastor Maldonado completed his session on foot after breaking down at turn 15.
|2014 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX – FREE PRACTICE 1 RESULT|
|1||6. NICO ROSBERG||MERCEDES||SOFT||1:29.375|
|2||22. JENSON BUTTON||McLAREN MERCEDES||SOFT||1:30.766|
|3||14. FERNANDO ALONSO||FERRARI||SOFT||1:30.876|
|4||44. LEWIS HAMILTON||MERCEDES||MED||1:30.919|
|5||3. DANIEL RICCIARDO||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||SOFT||1:30.970|
|6||27. NICO HULKENBERG||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||SOFT||1:30.978|
|7||7. KIMI RAIKKONEN||FERRARI||SOFT||1:31.156|
|8||20. KEVIN MAGNUSSEN||McLAREN MERCEDES||SOFT||1:31.251|
|9||11. SERGIO PEREZ||FORCE INDIA MERCEDES||SOFT||1:31.665|
|10||19. FELIPE MASSA||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||MED||1:31.723|
|11||26. DANIIL KVYAT||STR RENAULT||SOFT||1:31.925|
|12||1. SEBASTIAN VETTEL||RED BULL RACING RENAULT||MED||1:32.255|
|13||25. JEAN-ERIC VERGNE||STR RENAULT||SOFT||1:32.417|
|14||17. JULES BIANCHI||MARUSSIA FERRARI||SOFT||1:34.184|
|15||99. ADRIAN SUTIL||SAUBER FERRARI||MED||1:34.188|
|16||10. KAMUI KOBAYASHI||CATERHAM RENAULT||SOFT||1:34.413|
|17||4. MAX CHILTON||MARUSSIA FERRARI||SOFT||1:34.717|
|18||13. PASTOR MALDONADO||LOTUS RENAULT||MED||1:34.754|
|19||9. MARCUS ERICSSON||CATERHAM RENAULT||SOFT||1:36.159|
|20||77. VALTTERI BOTTAS||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||n/a||NO TIME|
|21||21. ESTEBAN GUTIERREZ||SAUBER FERRARI||n/a||NO TIME|
|22||8. ROMAIN GROSJEAN||LOTUS RENAULT||n/a||NO TIME|