Webber goes fastest in first practice

Mark Webber and Red Bull made the perfect start to the 2011 season by going fastest in opening free practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne

Webber goes fastest in first practice

Though it's too soon for most of the questions over 2011 form to be answered, it seems at least that predictions about the competitiveness of the new RB7 were correct as both Webber and world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel spent long periods of the 90 minute session at the top of the times. The pair ended up locking out the first two positions fairly easily.

In the end Webber's 1m26.831s, set on a new set of Pirelli's hard 'prime' tyres on the final lap of the session ensured he fired an early shot to Vettel - the German ending up some 0.327s behind after a late run of his own.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was third fastest, more than half a second behind Vettel, ahead of Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg.

Rubens Barrichello, now fully recovered from his travel dramas, set an impressive fifth fastest time late in the session for Williams ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton who both showed respectable pace throughout the morning to go sixth and seventh in the revised MP4-26 - which sported a simplified exhaust similar to that of Red Bull and Ferrari.

Michael Schumacher was eighth fastest ahead of Kamui Kobayashi, whose Sauber shed part of its engine cover late in the session. Vitaly Petrov completed the top ten for Renault.

The session was relatively incident free, though several drivers had off-track moments, including Webber and Felipe Massa - who ended the session 11th ahead of Nick Heidfeld.

Only Karun Chandhok hit the wall in the Lotus, as he exited the pits at the start of the session. On cold tyres the Indian's car appeared to snap right and spun him straight into the wall - forcing Heikki Kovalainen to take on development duties for the team.

Virgin's Jerome d'Ambrosio and Timo Glock were some 8s off the pace as Virgin flirts with the prospect of the 107 per cent cut-off in qualifying while neither HRT ventured on track at all.

 Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1m26.831s 20 2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1m27.158s + 0.327 19 3. Alonso Ferrari 1m27.749s + 0.918 20 4. Rosberg Mercedes 1m28.152s + 1.321 16 5. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1m28.430s + 1.599 24 6. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1m28.440s + 1.609 29 7. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1m28.483s + 1.652 26 8. Schumacher Mercedes 1m28.690s + 1.859 14 9. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1m28.725s + 1.894 13 10. Petrov Renault 1m28.765s + 1.930 15 11. Massa Ferrari 1m28.842s + 2.011 20 12. Heidfeld Renault 1m28.928s + 2.097 14 13. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1m29.314s + 2.483 19 14. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m29.328s + 2.497 21 15. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth 1m29.403s + 2.572 24 16. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1m29.468s + 2.637 23 17. Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1m29.643s + 2.812 18 18. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1m31.002s + 4.171 20 19. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault 1m32.428s + 5.597 13 20. d'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1m35.282s + 8.451 17 21. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1m35.289s + 8.458 15 22. Chandhok Lotus-Renault no time 1 23. Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth no time 24. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth no time All Timing Unofficial 
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