McLaren began the new season in style by claiming the top two spots in first practice at Albert Park. Jenson Button edged out team-mate Lewis Hamilton for top spot by just 0.245 seconds, the 2009 champion recording a lap of 1:27.560.
The McLaren duo were followed by the Mercedes of Michael Schumacher, who ended the session just over four tenths adrift of Hamilton, and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso, who posted a time of 1:28.360, eight tenths off the pace of Button. The top five was rounded out by local hero Mark Webber who ended the session a tenth of a second back from Alonso but six places ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who ended the first session in 11th position.
The defending champion finished behind Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi and ninth-placed Kimi Räikönnen, who completed just eight laps in his Lotus E20. "Even though it doesn’t mean too much, it’s always nice to start the season with the quickest time of the day," admitted Button. "Our car feels very different compared with the last test – the circuit is different and the average corner speed is a lot lower, but the car is still working well for me."
For the teams it was a far from ideal start, with the session beginning in damp conditions and only improving slowly during the hour and half time limit. By midway through, however, the surface was sure enough for the intermediates to come out, Sauber’s Sergio Pérez being the first to successfully make the switch. Despite the wet weather there were relatively few incidents during the session.
Toro Rosso debutant Jean-Eric Vergne had a nervy moment at the half hour mark but stayed on track after a spin but Ferrari’s Felipe Massa was less fortunate, the Brazilian dumping his car into the gravel after getting a wheel on the grass on the run down to turn nine. He finished in 18th position. Charles Pic managed to turn his first 11 laps in a Formula One car for Marussia but veteran Pedro de la Rosa failed to make an appearance, HRT’s contribution to the session being three laps from Narain Karthikeyan before the Indian was forced to pull over with a problem.