The first session of 2012 began with a drizzle at Albert Park for the Australian Grand Prix, but ended with a handful of Ferrari, and two McLarens leading the timesheets. Jenson Button drew first blood with a fastest lap of 1:27.560, leading a top five of teammate Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, and Mark Webber. Alonso had serious issues with oversteer out of the final corner, while his own teammate Felipe Massa beached the car in the gravel in the latter half of the session. Reining world champion Sebastian Vettel as only eleventh fastest in the damp and drying conditions. Neither Narain Karthikeyan nor Pedro de la Rosa set times, with the former stopping due to an oil pressure/overheating issue. The other former world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, was ninth fastest after sitting in the garage with continued steering issues for much of the session.
Rain continued to fall as the first session of the 2012 season began, as it had all morning at Albert Park. Still, Vergne was the first to make his way out, just after the green light came on. He was quickly followed by teammate Ricciardo then Glock, Maldonado, and Senna. Others followed, with most on intermediate tyres but for Glock, Hulkenberg, and Rosberg. As expected, most drivers went onto the track for a single installation lap, then returned to their garages. In the first bit of drama, Rosberg had a moment through the grass at Turn 11 but continued on.
Fifteen minutes into the session, all drivers but de la Rosa had done an installation lap or two, but none had set a complete lap time. Ricciardo was the first to head back out as he began the session. Over at Caterham, Mike Gascoyne allowed in an interview that the track conditions did not allow any new knowledge, and that the team had simply put some older parts on the car lest it fly into a wall. The rain seemed to have stopped, but the damp track continued to hamper running. Ricciardo set the first time, a lap of 1:47.448. Soon Vettel had also set a time, despite running through a patch of oil at Turn 5. He was second fastest as Ricciardo had improved his own time, with Vergne the only other man to have set a time.
1 Hour Remaining:
Alonso was the next to finish a timed lap (1:37.921) as the first third of the ninety-minute session ended. He was fastest, by two seconds, over Ricciardo, Vergne, and Vettel. They were the only drivers to have set times in the damp conditions. Karthikeyan was the first with major issues, as he completed three laps before his HRT engine shut down on him due to a loss of oil pressure. There were more drivers with times set when the session was thirty-five minutes gone, as Rosberg led Alonso, Webber, Kobayashi, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Vergne, and Vettel the only eight men with times. Senna slid his way into fifth on his first lap, with Kobayashi taking the top spot a few minutes later.
Meanwhile, Raikkonen continued to have steering issues that kept him in the garage. Nearing the halfway point, the sun had begun to shine and the track appeared nearly ready for dry tires. Kobayashi (1:36.906) led Rosberg, Alonso, Webber, Senna, Di Resta, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Vettel, and Pic as the eleven men with times set. The top eight were separated by three seconds, with Vergne another second slower, Vettel’s wet time four seconds again slower, and Pic twenty-six seconds off the Japanese driver’s pace. Perez was the first driver to try the slick tyres, but had a moment in the pit lane. Kobayashi was the next after his teammate to go out on the dries. He improved his time by five seconds.
30 Minutes Remaining:
As the final third of the session began, Webber slotted into second, just under four seconds slower than Kobayashi’s 1:30.761. Senna was third fastest, as Perez, Rosberg, Alonso, Di Resta, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Vergne, Vettel, and Pic completed the top thirteen. Vettel next moved up to third as the session finally got down to business. Webber took the Red Bull back to it’s accustomed position by a few tenths with a lap of 1:30.520. As the track continued to dry, more drivers improved their times and the overall times, with Schumacher (1:29.656) the next to take it to the top. Teammate Rosberg quickly joined him, as Alonso soon moved into third fastest.
A bit further down the order, Hamilton’s first timed lap of the day put him fifth. The next one put him second, just .055s slower than Schumacher. Alonso was third, just over one tenth slower than the German whiel his teammate Massa beached himself in the gravel at Turn 9, having lost the rear with the wheels barely over on some grass. That caught out the rear wheels and spun the Brazilian into the gravel trap.
10 Minutes Remaining:
As the final ten minutes approached, Button was on a flying lap to the top of the timesheets. He led them with a lap of 1:27.650, as Schumacher, Hamilton, Alonso, Webber, Rosberg, Ricciado, Kobayashi, Perez, and Di Resta as the top ten. All drivers but Karthikeyan (engine trouble), Raikkonen (steering setup issues), and de la Rosa (HRT) had then set a time. The Finn was soon out for the final minutes. In the final minutes Hamilton was on a flying lap, caught for a moment behind Rosberg, but was only able to improve his position to second fastest on the next lap. On his final lap, Alonso had a dismal showing of severe snap oversteer out of the final corner, showing what a handful the Ferrari is at the moment.
Final Times for FP1, 2012 Australian Grand Prix:
Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Jenson Button McLaren 1:27.560 11 2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:27.805 0.245 14 3. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1:28.235 0.65 17 4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:28.360 0.800 21 5. Mark Webber Red Bull 1:28.467 0.907 21 6. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:28.638 1.123 22 7. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:28.908 1.348 23 8. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1:29.415 1.855 16 9. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:29.565 2.005 8 10. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1:29.722 2.162 26 11. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:29.790 2.230 21 12. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1:29.865 2.305 17 13. Paul Di Resta Force India 1:29.881 2.321 18 14. Bruno Senna Williams 1:29.953 2.393 21 15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1:30.124 2.564 22 16. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1:30.515 2.955 16 17. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:30.586 3.026 16 18. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:30.743 3.183 11 19. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Tosso 1:31.178 3.618 17 20. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1:31.983 4.423 8 21. Timo Glock Marussia 1:34.730 7.170 8 22. Charles Pic Marussia 1:40.256 12.696 11 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT n/t n/t 3 24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT n/t n/t