Alonso tops first practice timesheets

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IOL mot mar14 Alonso Getty Images Fernando Alonso was quickest in the first practice for the Australian F1 GP.

Melbourne - Ferrari's Fernando Alonso topped the timesheets in the first free practice at the Australian Grand Prix on Friday as reliability problems saw the new Formula One season open with a whimper rather than a bang.

The twice world champion Spaniard posted a lap of one minute 31.840 seconds with half an hour left in the 90 minute session and held his half-a-second lead over McLaren's second-placed Jenson Button in brilliant sunshine at Albert Park.

After a winter testing in which teams struggled to come to terms with the new turbocharged hybrid engines, drivers spent much of the session cooling their heels in the garages, while technicians tinkered.

MERCEDES TROUBLE

The biggest surprise of the session was trouble for Mercedes, who arrived Down Under optimistic after a promising winter testing.

Having batted away the favourites to win the season-opener tag, Lewis Hamilton was left fuming when his car stopped at turn nine of his installation lap just five minutes into the session.

IOL mot mar14 Hamilton Lewis Hamilton broke down during the session. Reuters

With the vehicle hauled off by a tow-truck, the 29-year-old Briton walked back to the paddock without taking his helmet off and suffered the indignity of being stopped by security before retreating into his team's tent.

Mercedes later issued a statement clarifying that his car had come to an automatic halt triggered by an oil pressure alarm, but said they needed to investigate the fault further.

Mercedes-powered Williams fared better, with Valtteri Bottas posting the third-fasted time and his new team mate Felipe Massa shrugging off a radio malfunction to be fourth quickest.

RED BULL COMING RIGHT?

Red Bull, who endured a dismal winter testing, had an encouraging first session, with new driver Daniel Ricciardo finishing fifth ahead of reigning quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in seventh.

Hamilton's team mate Nico Rosberg was sixth for Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen, taking his first run for Ferrari since returning to Maranello, was ninth after eighth-placed McLaren debutant Kevin Magnussen.

Lotus waited until 20 minutes left in the session before making an appearance, with driver Pastor Maldonado rolling out of the garage, but he managed only an installation lap before taking a skid through some gravel and coming to a halt in pit-lane.

He and team mate Romain Grosjean were among five drivers that failed to post a lap time, suggesting plenty of work to be done before the second practice session later on Friday.

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RESULTS - FIRST PRACTICE

1. Fernando Alonso (ESP) Scuderia Ferrari 1min 31.840sec

2. Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren Mercedes 1:32.357

3. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams 1:32.403

4. Felipe Massa (BRA) Williams 1:32.431

5. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull Racing 1:32.599

6. Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes 1:32.604

7. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing 1:32.793

8. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) McLaren Mercedes 1:32.847

9. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Scuderia Ferrari 1:32.977

10. Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Toro Rosso 1:33.446

11. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Force India 1:33.533

12. Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India 1:33.855

13. Daniil Kvyat (RUS) Toro Rosso 1:34.272

14. Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber 1:35.578

15. Adrian Sutil (GER) Sauber 1:36.445

16. Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia 1:40.859

17. Max Chilton (GBR) Marussia 1:46.922

18. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Caterham

19. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes

20. Kamui Kobayashi (JPN) Caterham

21. Pastor Maldonado (VEN) Lotus

22. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus



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