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Rosberg heads Button in final practice

NEWS STORY
15/03/2014

Ahead of today's sole free practice session the air temperature is 27 degrees C, while the track temperature is 35 degrees.

It's a bit of a strange day. It's warmish outside, but there is a fairly stiff breeze that comes and goes while the sky is rather grey down towards the St Kilda end of the circuit (the pit entry end). It's threatening rain and while there has been a spot or two it has stayed dry. Every now and then the sun pokes its head through to see what's happening, but never for very long.

There are two DRS zones, the first on the main pit straight and the second between Turns 2 and 3. The detection zone is before Turn 14.

Lewis Hamilton headed a Mercedes 1-2 in yesterday's all-important second session, ahead of Alonso, Vettel, Button and Ricciardo, the top six covered by 0.915s.

While this was pretty much what we expected, in terms of Mercedes, and to an extent Ferrari and McLaren, Red Bull has clearly made up ground following the disaster in Bahrain.

However, the Renault powered teams still have problems, witness Lotus and Caterham, the latter failing to post a time in either session.

As expected, teams are encountering major problems when it comes to changing, or even removing, power units, the process taking two or three times longer than before. Consequently, this meant drivers losing track time yesterday and is surely going to have an impact today also. Already there were fears that drivers might skip FP3 in order to conserve their cars, now, in the knowledge that a problem in the session could mean missing qualifying, drivers are even more likely to take it easy this morning.

Whilst many still defend the raft of new regulations the fact is that they are causing problems which many don't appear to have foreseen. At a time moves have been made to ensure more running on Friday mornings we appear to be losing out instead on Saturday.

At some point or another almost everyone had an off yesterday as driver continue to get used to the new cars. Other than drivers being caught out by the new levels of torque, the new fly-by-wire brakes appeared to be as problem, particularly for Toro Rosso. That said, the Faenza outfit did complete the most laps of the eleven teams present (128).

In all honesty, most drivers will be happy to get through this weekend, and the next couple of flyaway races, unscathed. The championship cannot be won yet but it could be lost.

While Mercedes lived up to expectations, Williams was a little off the pace in the afternoon on the heavier fuel loads, while the Force India duo were also surprisingly off the pace. However, other than Lotus and Caterham, nobody really came away yesterday looking as though all was already lost, far from it.

As expected, the sound of the cars has widely disappointed, but the fact is that - as ever the case in F1 - we will have to get used to it, because Bernie and his mates know best.

The lights go green and Vergne leads the way followed by Bottas, Maldonado, Gutierrez, Chilton, Magnussen, Ericsson and Kobayashi. Indeed, soon almost everyone is one track, the teams with an eye on the dark clouds that are closing in.

There is talk that with his limited mileage, should Ericsson not complete enough laps today he would be prevented from taking part in the race. Something that should have been thought of some time ago one would think.

Five minutes into the session all but the Red Bulls and Raikkonen have been out for an installation lap. Maldonado is advised that his "not too perfect" brake pedal will be fixed after the session.

As the Red Bull duo head down the pitlane, Raikkonen is out of his car and heading out to the back of the Ferrari garage. The Finn is thought to have a radio problem - absolute bliss for him one would assume.

Vergne is soon back on track, joined by a number of other drivers. As the Frenchman posts the first time of the day (35.505), Gutierrez grinds to a slow crawl with a gearbox problem.

Magnussen briefly goes quickest before being leapfrogged by Kvyat (33.079), the Russian youngster really struggling yesterday as he got used to the car and the whole F1 race weekend experience.

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