Defending Formula One world champion Sebastian Vettel claimed top spot in the first free practice session of the 2013 championship with a lap of 1:27.211 at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit.
The Red Bull Racing driver was followed by Felipe Massa, who finished just 0.078 adrift of the German. Fernando Alonso took third place with a lap 0.336 back from the 2012 champion.
The opening session of the Australian Grand Prix got off to a quite start as after an initial flurry of installation laps drivers retreated to the garages. When the action did eventually get underway, it was Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen who laid down the first marker, with a lap of 1:27.877.
The Finn’s supremacy was short-lived, however, as the battle for the top spot soon became a tussle between Vettel and the twin Ferrari’s of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
Alonso first bettered Raikkonen’s time with a lap of 1:27.547 but the4 Spaniard was soon edged out to third. Vettel landed his quickest lap with just over 20 minutes remaining and while Massa tried to respond the only result was a brief trip across the gravel traps.
Behind the top three, Lewis Hamilton took fourth spot with a lap 0.341 behind Vettel’s and Mark Webber ended his opening session on home soil with fifth place.
Adrian Sutil’s return to the sport began encouragingly with the Force India driver claiming eighth spot, 1.2 second off the top spot but over four tenths quicker than tea-mate Paul Di Resta.
Of the rookies, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was quickest in 15th place, followed by Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez in 16th. Jules Bianchi, in 19th place headed team-mate Max Chilton by almost a second and while Giedo van der Garde ended the session in 22nd place, a tenth back from team-mate Charles Pic.
2013 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1 Times
1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing 1:27.211s
2. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:27.289s
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:27.547s
4. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:27.552s
5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:27.668s
6. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:27.877s
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:28.013s
8. Adrian Sutil Force India 1:28.426s
9. Jenson Button McLaren 1:28.440s
10. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:28.520s
11. Sergio Perez McLaren 1:28.597s
12. Nico Hulkenberg Sauber 1:28.786s
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1:28.910s
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:29.443s
15. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1:29.928s
16. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1:30.203s
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1:30.729s
18. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:30.969s
19. Jules Bianchi Marussia 1:31.263s
20. Max Chilton Marussia 1:32.176s
21. Charles Pic Caterham 1:32.274s
22. Giedo van der Garde Caterham 1:32.388s