Jenson Button has fired the opening salvo of the 2012 Formula 1 season, topping Free Practice 1 at Albert Park.
The Briton removed Michael Schuamcher from the top of the time sheets with nine of the 90 minutes remaining, before being joined at the head of the field by team-mate Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps.
Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Nico Rosberg, Daniel Ricciardo, Pastor Maldonado, Kimi Raikkonen and Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top 10.
The first hour of the session was largely run on intermediate tyres following midday rain at the circuit.
It took 20 minutes for the first flying lap to be completed – Australian Daniel Ricciardo doing the honours in his Toro Rosso.
Times started in the 1:47s bracket and, while Alonso lowered the benchmark by 10s within 10 minutes, more significant gains were not found until the slick tyres came out with little over half an hour remaining.
Felipe Massa dumped his Ferrari into the Turn 9 gravel with 14 minutes to go after touching the grass on the way into the corner. The Ferrari was removed from the circuit by a tractor under a local yellow. Massa ended the session 18th fastest.
Raikkonen completed just eight laps due to steering issues with his Lotus, but managed to climb into the top 10 in the final moments regardless.
It was also a difficult session for minnows HRT, with Narain Karthikeyan’s car stopping on the run to Turn 13 after just three laps of running.
Team-mate Pedro de la Rosa was the only driver not to venture onto the circuit during the 90 minutes.
See below for the full session result
|5||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:28.467||0.907|
|11||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||1:29.790||2.230|
|12||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.865||2.305|
|13||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||1:29.881||2.321|
|23||Narain Karthikeyan||HRT-Cosworth||No time|