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Business as usual as Vettel sets early pace in Australia

NEWS STORY
15/03/2013

Ahead of today's opening practice session, the first of the 2013 season, the air temperature is 32 degrees C, while the track temperature is 48 degrees.

Tyre options are Hard (prime) and Supersoft (option), the first time that this combination has been used at Albert Park.

The lights go green and Daniel Ricciardo gets the season underway. Sadly, despite having four months in which to prepare, Bernie Ecclestone's timing people are unprepared, the screen remain a worrying black.

Ricciardo is joined by Grosjean, Vergne, Gutierrez, Raikkonen, Chilton, Bianchi and Webber.

One by one the drivers take to the track, one by one, the installation lap over, they return to the pits, only Perez and Button staying out for a second lap.

There then follows the traditional lull even though there is so much to be done today, so many components to be tested.

Around twenty-five minutes into the session Alonso goes out for another single lap, followed, shortly after by Perez.

After thirty-five minutes Ricciardo is back on track. After the build-up, the opening session has been a damp squib up to now.

Ricciardo gets the season underway with a 1:54.048 as Vergne and Bianchi head down the pitlane.

As Ricciardo improves to 36.089, more drivers, including Vettel, take to the track.

Bianchi momentarily goes quickest (32.274) but is soon eclipsed by Ricciardo who crosses the line at 31.636. Vergne goes second and Chilton fourth, or four.

First session of the year and at half-time there just four names on the timesheets, Ricciardo, Vergne, Bianchi and Chilton.

A 30.947 sees Vergne go quickest, however Bianchi is quickest in S2. Elsewhere, Pic goes fifth, albeit 3.5s off the pace.

Bottas' first flying lap sees the Finn go fourth (32.829), as the Toro Rosso duo return to the pits having completed 16 laps between them.

A 29.029 sees The Iceman go straight to the tops of the sheets, as Maldonado goes sixth ahead of Van der Garde, Chilton and Pic.

As Raikkonen improves to 28.095, Gutierrez has a hairy moment at T5, the Mexican running on to the grass and hanging out the back end.

Maldonado improves to second and Bottas third only to be demoted when Hulkenberg goes second with a 29.422.

Out front Raikkonen is setting a stunning pace, the Finn raising the bar with a 27.877. Elsewhere, Button is on track.

Sutil goes third and Button fourth, however, a 29.296 from Grosjean sees the pair slip down to fourth and fifth. Lotus now 1-2.

The action is hotting up, Rosberg goes second ahead of Webber only to be demoted when teammate Hamilton bangs in a 28.266. Moments later Rosberg re-takes second with a 28.013.

Alonso on his first flying lap posts a 27.547 to go quickest, the Ferrari very, very quick straight out of the box. Hamilton re-takes second (27.759), ahead of Raikkonen, Massa, Rosberg and Sutil.

Having posted a 28.433 to go eighth, Vettel goes quickest in the two final sectors, crossing the line at 27.320 to go quickest.

Massa goes quickest in S2, the Brazilian subsequently crossing the line at 27.289. Moments later however, Vettel ups the ante with a 27.211.

With 22:00 remaining, it's: Vettel, Massa, Alonso, Hamilton, Webber, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Sutil, Button and Perez.

Gutierrez describes his tyres as "consistent" then again, it's still early days. We've a long way to go yet.

At the wrong end of the timesheets, it's the usual suspects; Chilton, Pic, Van der Garde and Bianchi, with Vergne and Ricciardo keeping them company.

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