Alonso tops first session of 2014 season

Alonso tops first session of 2014 season

14 March 2014 – Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso set the standard during Friday's first free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, clocking a best time of 1:31.840 to lead McLaren rival Jenson Button by half a second.

As the Melbourne pit lane opened for one of the most eagerly anticipated seasons in Formula 1 history, it was ultimate pace-setter Alonso who took the honour of officially kick-starting the sport's new turbocharged era.

After early spells from Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg, Alonso moved to the front at the half hour mark of the session, producing a mid 1m32s lap on Pirelli's free set of Medium tyres.

Button, one of the few drivers to complete a longer run, took a brief turn at the head of the timesheets, but Alonso soon returned to his position of authority after improving by more than seven tenths of a second.

Williams duo Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa ran faultlessly en route to third and fourth respectively, while Ricciardo gave his team hope after a torrid pre-season by circulating 26 times and completing the top five.

Rosberg was the fastest of the works Mercedes cars in sixth position, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton failing to complete a flying lap after an oil pressure alarm led to his engine shutting down in the opening minutes.

Despite spending more than half the session in the Red Bull garage due to delays with his RB10's preparation, reigning World Champion Vettel managed to hit double figures and clock the seventh quickest time.

Rookie Kevin Magnussen placed his McLaren eighth, while returning Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen and Toro Rosso's Jean-Éric Vergne – whose team's brake-by-wire struggles continued – rounded out the top ten.

The Force Indias and Saubers were split by Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat, who survived a couple of off-track excursions, while Marussia team-mates Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton were the last drivers to post times.

Caterham drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson were hit with respective fuel and electrical issues on their install laps, while Pastor Maldonado gave the Lotus E22 its only run shortly before the chequered flag.

Friday's second free practice session in Melbourne gets underway at 4.30pm local time (GMT +11)

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