Australian GP – Friday Practice 1

There’s no TV coverage (at least not here in Toronto) of the first practice session, but there is the official live timing info from the FIA. It could be our first chance to see if the Brawn GP team really are as fast as people suspect, and whether McLaren have been sandbagging or truly have based this year’s car on a Trabant.

Everyone was quick to take to the Albert Park circuit except for Fernando Alonso and Rubens Barrichello – it was over half an hour before they left the pits.

Sebastian Vettel only managed to complete three laps before his Red Bull lost hydraulic pressure and he ends up parked on the grass.

Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button post good times in the new Brawn GP cars … but don’t forget the controversy over their diffuser.

On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton and McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen are in the middle order; I doubt they are still sandbagging, so maybe the MP4-24 is as difficult as it looked in pre-season testing. Correction: Kovalainen is up near the top of the timing chart, so why is Hamilton in the bottom third?

With about 5 minutes left of this session, Adrian Sutil puts his Force India in the seventh fastest spot.

As the chequered flag falls on this first practice session of the 2009 season, the timing chart looks like this:

  1. N Rosberg (Williams)
  2. K Nakajima (Williams)
  3. K Raikkonen (Ferrari)
  4. R Barrichello (Brawn)
  5. H Kovalainen (McLaren)
  6. J Button (Brawn)
  7. F Massa (Ferrari)
  8. T Glock (Toyota)
  9. A Sutil (Force India)
  10. F Alonso (Renault)
  11. N Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)
  12. J Trulli (Toyota)
  13. R Kubica (BMW Sauber)
  14. G Fisichella (Force India)
  15. S Buemi (Toro Rosso)
  16. L Hamilton (McLaren)
  17. M Webber (Red Bull)
  18. N Piquet Jr. (Renault)
  19. S Bourdais (Toro Rosso)
  20. S Vettel (Red Bull)

With the Williams cars fastest and second fastest, with the Brawn drivers in P4 and P6, it’s interesting to see two of the three teams with the controversial diffuser well up the timing chart; mind you, the Toyota pair are in P8 and P12, so I’m not sure what that proves.

I’m still confused by the McLaren duo’s performance – Kovalainen is in P5 but reigning world champion Hamilton way down in P16. It’s only the first practice session, so they could be testing different set-ups with different fuel loads, etc. – hopefully LH isn’t struggling as much as it appears, but I guess we won’t know for sure until the qualifying session on Saturday.

Between now and then we have another practice session, so stay tuned for more updates…