Nico Rosberg led a Williams 1-2 for first practice of the Australian Grand Prix

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    Nico Rosberg led a Williams 1-2 for first practice of the Australian Grand Prix

    Post by Ross on 27th March 2009, 01:13

    Williams 1-2 tops P1 timesheets

    The Williams team cast aside the winter testing form book by taking a sensational 1-2 in the first practice session of the 2009 season in Melbourne.

    Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima came on progressively stronger as the 90 minutes elapsed and pipped Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the dying moments.

    The leading trio were blanketed by just 0.063s, half a second clear of the chasing pack.

    Pre-event favourite Brawn GP – the team that has remarkably risen from the ashes of Honda Racing to set F1 alight with its new BGP 001 car – enjoyed a solid debut session, Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button finishing fourth and sixth respectively.

    They were sandwiched by Heikki Kovalainen in the faster of the McLarens – indicating that the Woking team may be able to muster a respectable showing in Australia despite the teething problems it has experienced with its MP4-24 car.

    Less promisingly, however, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton managed only the 16th fastest time in the sister car after an untidy session.

    Despite drastically lower downforce levels this year, Rosberg’s pacesetting lap of 1m26.687s was just 0.2s slower than Raikkonen’s yardstick in the corresponding session last season and fractionally faster than Hamilton’s 2008 pole time – showing just how much extra mechanical grip is afforded by the slick tyres.

    Nonetheless the cars looked predictably nervous and twitchy as the drivers ventured out for their first tentative laps of the dusty 3.3-mile Albert Park temporary circuit in chilly early autumn weather.

    Rookie Sebastien Buemi was the first man to put a time on the board, before Raikkonen emerged and steadily whittled the benchmark down to the mid-1m28s range despite a brief trip across the grass at the first chicane on one lap.

    Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa had a wild moment on an early flier when he slid off under braking for the tight turn 15 and went down the escape road, rejoining after a swift spin turn.

    Rosberg was already showing encouraging pace for Williams, going second quickest until he was demoted by a notably neat and tidy lap from Button in the Brawn.

    Shortly after the halfway mark Kovalainen briefly moved to the top of the timing charts with a 1m27.982s lap, before Barrichello upped the ante to 1m27.743s.

    A few minutes later Raikkonen used a set of soft-compound tyres to make a quantum leap in pace, uncorking a 1m26.750s.

    The Ferrari looked stable and confidence-inspiring but the fine edge of the tyres’ performance had already worn off by the time Raikkonen was halfway round the next lap.

    Nonetheless the Finn’s time remained unbeaten until the Williams pair’s impressive forays – on the harder rubber – at the very end of the session.

    Behind the top six came Massa in the second Ferrari and Timo Glock in the quicker of the Toyotas, with Adrian Sutil an excellent ninth fastest for Force India.

    Renault seemed to be struggling for grip, Fernando Alonso surviving several hairy moments en route to the 10th best time and Nelson Piquet spinning off after losing the R29 on the turn-in to the first chicane.

    BMW had a low-key start to what it hopes will be a title-challenging 2009 campaign, finishing 11th (Nick Heidfeld) and 13th (Robert Kubica), split by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli.

    Giancarlo Fisichella was 14th in the second Force India ahead of Buemi, who kept his nose clean and wound up the fastest of the four drivers from the Red Bull stable.

    Toro Rosso team-mate Sebastien Bourdais bemoaned the low-grip track conditions and, as if to prove the point, languished in 19th place.

    Meanwhile Red Bull Racing duo Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel completed only 11 laps between them due to technical problems.

    Vettel ground to a halt on the circuit after 45 minutes when his RB5 lost hydraulic pressure, while a driveshaft problem stymied team-mate Webber.

    The ‘green’ track conditions ensured there were plenty of grassy excursions but everyone managed to keep away from the concrete walls.

    Australian GP free practice session one times

    1. ROSBERG Williams 1m26.687s
    2. NAKAJIMA Williams 1m26.736s
    3. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1m26.750s
    4. BARRICHELLO Brawn 1m27.226s
    5. KOVALAINEN McLaren 1m27.453s
    6. BUTTON Brawn 1m27.467s
    7. MASSA Ferrari 1m27.642s
    8. GLOCK Toyota 1m27.710s
    9. SUTIL Force India 1m27.993s
    10. ALONSO Renault 1m28.123s
    11. HEIDFELD BMW 1m28.137s
    12. TRULLI Toyota 1m28.142s
    13. KUBICA BMW 1m28.511s
    14. FISICHELLA Force India 1m28.603s
    15. BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m28.785s
    16. HAMILTON McLaren 1m29.042s
    17. WEBBER Red Bull 1m29.081s
    18. PIQUET Renault 1m29.461s
    19. BOURDAIS Toro Rosso 1m29.499s
    20. VETTEL Red Bull 1m32.784s


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