Raikkonen tops practice 1 - Australia

World champion Kimi Raikkonen began his title defence in fine style by topping the first practice session of the new season in Melbourne

The Ferrari driver deposed McLaren's Lewis Hamilton in the closing moments of the session, and then extended his margin to 0.487 seconds by producing an even faster time on his second flying lap of the run.

BMW's Nick Heidfeld took the honour of leading the field out on track for the first installation laps of the 2008 world championship, but it was Champ Car convert Sebastien Bourdais for Scuderia Toro Rosso who set the first timed lap of the season after 15 minutes.

Raikkonen was the first of the potential title contenders to complete a flying lap, and the reigning champion held the top spot for a quarter of an hour before Hamilton produced a 1:27.085 and moved ahead.

Felipe Massa (Ferrari) looked set to beat Hamilton's time on his last run until encountering traffic in the final sector. But Raikkonen had no such problems when he returned to the track, and was able to retake the top position in the final minute of the session.

Hamilton's new McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen briefly edged Massa down to fourth before the Brazilian reclaimed third with his last lap.

Home favourite Mark Webber moved up to fifth place for Red Bull in the closing moments, albeit 1.8 seconds slower than the leaders.

Until Webber's late lap Fernando Alonso (Renault) had been the closest challenger to the top two teams. The former world champion was also nearly two seconds behind Raikkonen's time and had two excursions through gravel traps, while his teammate Nelson Piquet caused a brief red flag after spinning and stalling at Turn 13.

The Brazilian rookie was one of several drivers in trouble during the session. Red Bull's David Coulthard had to stop with low oil pressure, Heidfeld was forced to park his BMW at the trackside just after the one-hour mark, and Nico Rosberg spent most of the morning in the Williams garage due to a gearbox issue and did not complete a flying lap.

Robert Kubica took seventh for BMW, with Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli showing promising form for Toyota in eighth and 10th places, split by Sebastian Vettel's Toro Rosso.

Jenson Button finished just outside the top ten for Honda, ahead of Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella and Coulthard.

Still extremely short of spare parts, the recently-reprieved Super Aguri team only came out for a handful of laps in the closing minutes and ended the morning nearly five seconds off the pace.

Pos  Driver        Team                     Time              Laps
 1.  Raikkonen     Ferrari             (B)  1:26.461          25
 2.  Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes    (B)  1:26.948 + 0.487  21
 3.  Massa         Ferrari             (B)  1:26.958 + 0.497  25
 4.  Kovalainen    McLaren-Mercedes    (B)  1:27.114 + 0.653  19
 5.  Webber        Red Bull-Renault    (B)  1:28.263 + 1.802  18
 6.  Alonso        Renault             (B)  1:28.360 + 1.899  22
 7.  Kubica        BMW Sauber          (B)  1:28.579 + 2.118  12
 8.  Glock         Toyota              (B)  1:28.913 + 2.452  16
 9.  Vettel        Toro Rosso-Ferrari  (B)  1:28.957 + 2.496  22
10.  Trulli        Toyota              (B)  1:29.014 + 2.553  23
11.  Button        Honda               (B)  1:29.124 + 2.663  25
12.  Fisichella    Force India-Ferrari (B)  1:29.230 + 2.769  24
13.  Coulthard     Red Bull-Renault    (B)  1:29.301 + 2.840   5
14.  Bourdais      Toro Rosso-Ferrari  (B)  1:29.363 + 2.902  32
15.  Barrichello   Honda               (B)  1:29.533 + 3.072  17
16.  Heidfeld      BMW Sauber          (B)  1:29.561 + 3.100   7
17.  Sutil         Force India-Ferrari (B)  1:30.155 + 3.694  13
18.  Piquet        Renault             (B)  1:30.357 + 3.896  21
19.  Sato          Super Aguri-Honda   (B)  1:31.048 + 4.587   7
20.  Davidson      Super Aguri-Honda   (B)  1:31.771 + 5.310   7
21.  Nakajima      Williams-Toyota     (B)  1:35.053 + 8.592   3
22.  Rosberg       Williams-Toyota     (B)  No time            3

All timing unofficial
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