Liuzzi fastest in first practice
Vitantonio Liuzzi gave his new Red Bull Racing team a debut delight as he topped the times in Friday's opening practice session for this weekend's Australian Grand Prix as Formula One kicked back into action in Albert Park.

The new two-race engine rules forced teams to opt for limited running and with many drivers choosing to preserve their powerplants rather than running up too many practice laps only 18 of the 24 cars set a time.

In warm, but not hot, conditions with cloudy skies and temperatures of 20 degrees Liuzzi, who had been hoping for a race drive with Red Bull, made his mark with a time of 1:25.967.

Pedro de la Rosa finished second for McLaren with a time 0.513 seconds slower than Liuzzi with Toyota test driver Ricardo Zonta third but a massive 1.298 seconds off the pace.

The top three drivers completed 19, 19 and 20 laps respectively but McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya set the fourth fastest time after just five laps of running with his new team.

Scot David Coulthard, the man Montoya replaced at McLaren, finished fifth fastest in the second Red Bull Racing machine while Felipe Massa claimed sixth fastest time for Sauber.

Home hero Mark Webber, who drove over Sydney Harbour Bridge last weekend, finished seventh fastest on his debut for Williams but he was 2.302 seconds off the pace of the lead driver.

Italian Jarno Trulli claimed eighth place for Toyota with Briton Jenson Button ninth for BAR-Honda and Christian Klien ensuring all three Red Bull machines finished in the top ten.

Liuzzi was the first man to set a competitive time when he drove his Red Bull Racing machine around the Albert Park circuit in 1:30.512 in the opening 15 minutes.

McLaren, who won the right to run a third car on the Friday of each Grand Prix weekend by finishing fifth last season, then saw de la Rosa better Liuzzi by more than a second to go to the top of the times.

The new rules had an effect on running and at the half-way point Jordan trio Robert Doornbos, Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Montiero were the only other three drivers who had been out on track.

De la Rosa then upped the mark again before Webber came out to a cheer from the crowd as made his competitive debut for Williams to begin his first Australian Grand Prix in a front-running car.

Karthikeyen looked as though he suffered an engine problem 35 mins into the session when smoke was seen from the rear of his Jordan and he was forced to remain in the pits for the rest of the session.

More cars began to venture out as the session moved towards a close but it was clear the full picture of who will be early-season favourites would not be seen until teams risked more running later in the weekend.

Ferrari finished 12th fastest with Rubens Barrichello but world champion Michael Schumacher failed to set a competitive lap time as he chose to preserve his engine for the rest of the weekend.

McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen and Renault pair Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella also failed to set a time while Minardi were unable to run after failing to receive permission to use their 2004-spec cars.
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Friday First Free Practice - Australian GP

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Vitantonio Liuzzi
Author Will Gray
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