But the first day of practice for the 2013 season began with Sebastian Vettel leading both sessions, ending up over four-tenths of a second quicker than anything that wasn’t an RB9.
And that came despite him making an error on his first flying lap on super-soft tyres. Looking at the combined best sector times, Vettel had at least another two-tenths in hand over the opposition.
The consolation for his rivals is that they left time on the table today as well. Felipe Massa had a KERS problem which likely kept him from setting a quicker time than Fernando Alonso. And Lewis Hamilton abandoned his first effort on the super-softs after running wide at turn nine.
But the early signs are that Red Bull have begun 2013 in a stronger position than they ended 2012. That doesn’t mean the first race of the season is a foregone conclusion. Rain is expected to play a role in tomorrow’s action, most likely during qualifying, which will pose taxing set-up questions for the teams as well as present an additional challenge for the drivers.
Longest stint comparison
This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:
|Paul di Resta||94.182||93.521||94.735||93.333||94.832||100.487||97.882||92.938||92.752|
|Giedo van der Garde||93.052||99.236||92.467||100.629||93.252|
Pirelli’s aggressive 2013 tyre compounds appear to be performing as planned. The super-soft tyre has a very short life – the stints above were mostly done on the medium tyre.
However the considerably better performance of the super-soft – around 1s per lap quicker than the medium – will make it the tyre to qualify on. Expect those at the sharp end of the grid to do that (if it’s dry), then switch to the medium tyres early on in the race.
“From what we can see of the degradation so far, we?óÔé¼Ôäód expect the majority of the teams to stop twice during the race, with some of the faster cars maybe trying three stops,” said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.
Those who know early on they will have to do three stops may be able to return to the super-soft tyres for the final stint, providing the stint is short enough.
Sector times and ultimate lap times
Felipe Massa looked in good shape during practice, outpacing Fernando Alonso in the first before falling behind in the second largely due to a KERS problem.
Ferrari had the fourth-quickest car, which Alonso said was in line with their expectations: “We already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today. The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best.”
Sergio Perez can’t have been too pleased at ending his first day for his new team behind his old team.
But Sauber have problems as well, according to Nico Hulkenberg, who said it had been a “challenging day” for the team: “On the first day there are always a few things you need to work on and improve.”
“We still have some homework to do,” he added. “I think we can still improve our time.”
|Car||Driver||Car||Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3||Ultimate lap||Gap||Deficit to best|
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull-Renault||28.459 (1)||22.968 (1)||34.223 (1)||1’25.650||0.258|
|2||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull-Renault||28.581 (2)||23.176 (5)||34.393 (2)||1’26.150||0.500||0.022|
|3||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||28.602 (3)||23.312 (7)||34.408 (4)||1’26.322||0.672||0.000|
|4||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Lotus-Renault||28.808 (6)||23.156 (3)||34.397 (3)||1’26.361||0.711||0.000|
|5||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||28.615 (4)||23.343 (8)||34.453 (5)||1’26.411||0.761||0.361|
|6||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||29.058 (8)||23.167 (4)||34.455 (6)||1’26.680||1.030||0.000|
|7||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||28.817 (7)||23.136 (2)||34.795 (7)||1’26.748||1.098||0.000|
|8||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||28.754 (5)||23.219 (6)||34.799 (8)||1’26.772||1.122||0.083|
|9||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||29.087 (9)||23.423 (9)||34.925 (9)||1’27.435||1.785||0.000|
|10||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||29.133 (11)||23.496 (11)||35.316 (12)||1’27.945||2.295||0.242|
|11||5||Jenson Button||McLaren||29.139 (13)||23.563 (13)||35.350 (13)||1’28.052||2.402||0.242|
|12||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren||29.129 (10)||23.530 (12)||35.424 (15)||1’28.083||2.433||0.483|
|13||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||29.308 (14)||23.490 (10)||35.460 (16)||1’28.258||2.608||0.053|
|14||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||29.359 (15)||23.739 (15)||35.226 (10)||1’28.324||2.674||0.448|
|15||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||29.512 (16)||23.704 (14)||35.282 (11)||1’28.498||2.848||0.129|
|16||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||29.133 (11)||23.751 (16)||35.667 (18)||1’28.551||2.901||0.301|
|17||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso-Ferrari||29.744 (19)||23.829 (17)||35.385 (14)||1’28.958||3.308||0.010|
|18||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||29.639 (17)||24.038 (20)||35.499 (17)||1’29.176||3.526||0.210|
|19||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||29.852 (20)||23.939 (19)||35.824 (19)||1’29.615||3.965||0.081|
|20||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||29.998 (21)||24.070 (21)||36.097 (20)||1’30.165||4.515||0.000|
|21||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||29.709 (18)||23.889 (18)||36.716 (21)||1’30.314||4.664||0.286|
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||30.718 (22)||24.571 (22)||37.030 (22)||1’32.319||6.669||0.131|
Complete practice times
Williams compared their different aerodynamic packages today and decided to keep the FW35 in its launch specification, which they believe it is a better fit for the track and conditions.
Adrian Sutil out-paced team mate Paul di Resta on his return, but chief engineer Jakob Andreasen pointed out that di Resta was hampered by floor damage in the second session.
A similar problem caused Hamilton to go off late in second practice, according to Mercedes, while a gearbox glitch forced Nico Rosberg to stop shortly afterwards.
Straight-line speed is the only thing McLaren have going for them at the moment while Red Bull assume their usual place near the foot of the speed table.
|#||Driver||Car||Engine||Max speed (kph)||Gap|
|8||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India||Mercedes||307.6||5.4|
|10||14||Paul di Resta||Force India||Mercedes||306.9||6.1|
|14||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham||Renault||306||7|
|19||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||Renault||301.4||11.6|
|20||19||Daniel Ricciardo||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||301.4||11.6|
|21||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||Renault||301.2||11.8|
|22||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||Ferrari||301.1||11.9|
2013 Australian Grand Prix
- F1 fans’ videos from the 2013 Australian Grand Prix
- Raikkonen wins first 2013 Driver of the Weekend poll
- Positive rating for first race of 2013
- Red Bull and Mercedes not the only ones resorting to team orders
- First Predictions round won by Prateek727
Image ?é?® Red Bull/Getty