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Reigning World Champion Sebastian Vettel set the pace during the opening practice session of the 2013 season in Melbourne on Friday, posting a time of 1:27.211 on his Medium tyre allocation. The Red Bull driver led Ferrari rival Felipe Massa by 0.078 seconds, while Fernando Alonso completed the top three.
After weeks of speculation about the pre-season tests at Jerez and Barcelona, the drivers were eager to sample their new machinery in race weekend conditions. Temperatures were much hotter than at the trio of gatherings in Spain, but it still took half an hour for the first time to be posted. This came from Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo, who remained fastest until team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne edged ahead.
Following a series of pace-setting laps from Kimi Räikkönen, Massa and Alonso, Vettel embarked upon his personal best run at the perfect time. The German avoided the early graining on a dirty track surface to make full use of the single set of Medium tyres permitted during the first 90 minutes of practice, subsequently easing speculation that Red Bull's RB9 chassis is significantly off the pace heading into Sunday's Grand Prix.
Behind the quickest three drivers, Lewis Hamilton looked instantly comfortable behind the wheel of the Mercedes en route to fourth place, with home favourite Mark Webber a little further back. Kimi Räikkönen was next up in sixth, just ahead of Nico Rosberg and Adrian Sutil, while McLaren's Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean rounded out the top ten positions.
At the bottom of the timing screens, Jules Bianchi put Marussia ahead of Caterham. The Frenchman finished almost a second ahead of team-mate Max Chilton, with Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde ending the first session closely matched. There were no stoppages, although Paul di Resta had a trip through the gravel at Turn 6.
Friday's second practice session in Melbourne gets underway at 4.30pm local time (GMT +11) and can be tracked via the GPUpdate.net Live Report feature
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|1.||S. Vettel||Red Bull||01:27.211||16|
|5.||M. Webber||Red Bull||01:27.668||18|
|8.||A. Sutil||Force India||01:28.426||19|
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