Nico Rosberg and the Williams team delivered a shock blow to the formbook in Melbourne going quickest in both of the opening practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix.
Less than 24 hours ago the Grove based outfit, along with Brawn GP and Toyota, faced the threat of having their cars declared illegal by the FIA after rival teams called into question the design of their diffuser.
But with their structure given the all clear by the race stewards late on Thursday night, Williams, and Rosberg in particular, delivered a searing pace in both practice sessions, edging out the favourites Brawn GP, and leaving Formula One’s powerhouses – McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and BMW Sauber – in the wrong half of the timing sheets.
In fact, all three teams who were believed to be in breach of the diffuser regulations faired well in practice underlying the performance gains that can be made in this area in the context of the new aerodynamic regulations.
Rosberg’s fastest time of 1:26.687 in practice one was a tenth of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton’s pole lap last year and it it kept him just ahead of teammate Kazuki Nakajima who confirmed the pace of the FW31.
Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest for Ferrari ahead of Rubens Barrichello (Brawn GP), Heikki Kovalainen (McLaren), and Barrichello’s teammate Jenson Button.
In the second practice session Rosberg lowered his time to 1:26.053 edging out Barrichello who again appeared to have the legs on his teamamte Jenson Button, while Toyota’s Jarno Trulli locked out the top three for the ‘diffuser-gang’.
Home favourite Mark Webber vaulted his Red Bull up into fourth ahead of Jenson Button and Timo Glock with Kazuki Nakajima again running strongly for Williams in seventh.
Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton struggled in both the opening sessions lapping sixteenth and seventeenth respectively, on average around two seconds off the pace. His championship protagnist from last year Felipe Massa faried slightly better breaking into the top ten for Ferrari in both sessions.
But it was a productive day for McLaren’s engine partners Force India with Adrian Sutil pacing ninth quickest in practice two, backed up by teamamte Giancarlo Fisichella in thirteenth.
BMW Sauber and Renault, two teams who based on last year’s results should be challenging for podiums and wins in 2009, had a quiet day of running. Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica ended the second session fourteenth and fifteenth respectively, while the best Renault’s Fernando Alonso could muster was twelth, with teammate Piquet in ninteenth.
Toro Rosso found themselves alongside McLaren and Renault at the rear end of the timing sheets – a testiment to the problems the two leading teams are enduring.
With this being the first time that the drivers have run their cars in anger since October last year the session was comparatively incident free.
There were plenty of drivers running wide onto the run-off however as they explored the limits of their new cars, complete with KERS systems and adjustable front wings for the first time this year.
Lewis Hamilton was among those to venture off the track in practice one and in the second session he complained that his car was bottoming out on the straights. Nelson Piquet had a spin at Turn 1 while Williams driver Kazuki Nakajima picked up a puncture.
Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel was the only driver to experience a mechanical glitch after stopping on the track with a hydraulics problem.
Practice Two Times
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:26.053 36
2. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:26.157 + 0.104 38
3. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:26.350 + 0.297 42
4. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:26.370 + 0.317 30
5. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:26.374 + 0.321 38
6. Glock Toyota (B) 1:26.443 + 0.390 42
7. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:26.560 + 0.507 33
8. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:26.740 + 0.687 19
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:27.040 + 0.987 29
10. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:27.064 + 1.011 35
11. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:27.204 + 1.151 32
12. Alonso Renault (B) 1:27.232 + 1.179 28
13. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:27.282 + 1.229 32
14. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (B) 1:27.317 + 1.264 34
15. Kubica BMW-Sauber (B) 1:27.398 + 1.345 36
16. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:27.479 + 1.426 36
17. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:27.802 + 1.749 35
18. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:27.813 + 1.760 31
19. Piquet Renault (B) 1:27.828 + 1.775 35
20. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:28.076 + 2.023 33
Practice One Times
Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:26.687 19
2. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:26.736 + 0.049 21
3. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:26.750 + 0.063 24
4. Barrichello Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:27.226 + 0.539 21
5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:27.453 + 0.766 15
6. Button Brawn-Mercedes (B) 1:27.467 + 0.780 12
7. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:27.642 + 0.955 24
8. Glock Toyota (B) 1:27.710 + 1.023 24
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:27.993 + 1.306 20
10. Alonso Renault (B) 1:28.123 + 1.436 16
11. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:28.137 + 1.450 20
12. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:28.142 + 1.455 21
13. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:28.511 + 1.824 22
14. Fisichella Force India-Mercedes (B) 1:28.603 + 1.916 16
15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:28.785 + 2.098 27
16. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:29.042 + 2.355 18
17. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:29.081 + 2.394 7
18. Piquet Renault (B) 1:29.461 + 2.774 25
19. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:29.499 + 2.812 21
20. Vettel Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:32.784 + 6.097 4