Rosberg kickstarts 2015 season by topping FP1 in Australia

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Nico Rosberg narrowly beat team-mate Lewis Hamilton to fastest time as Mercedes dominated the first practice session of the new season.

Rosberg was just 0.029 seconds quicker than the champion as Mercedes were more than a second clear of the field.

Williams’s Valtteri Bottas was third ahead of Toro Rosso rookie Carlos Sainz and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

Neither Sauber, locked in a legal dispute with ex-reserve driver Giedo Van Der Garde, nor Manor did any laps.

Van Der Garde is claiming he has a contract to race for the Swiss team, who have signed Swede Marcus Ericsson and Brazilian Felipe Nasr as well, and has taken the case to the Australian courts, who have ruled in his favour.

But the Dutchman cannot drive the Sauber as he does not have a valid F1 licence.

Sauber are believed not to have run because the case is still ongoing on Friday in Melbourne and they risk being in contempt of court.

Manor, who only just made it to Australia after a late rescue from financial problems that forced them to miss the final three races of last season, had problems with their engine software.

The Mercedes advantage over the field – 1.191 seconds – was in the region of what was expected after pre-season testing.

Williams, Ferrari and Red Bull were expected to be engaged in a tight battle to be best of the rest, but Bottas had an advantage of nearly 0.3secs over Vettel, who was just ahead of the second Toro Rosso of Max Verstappen, who at 17 is the youngest driver in F1 history by nearly two years.

Williams’s Felipe Massa was seventh ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus’s Pastor Maldonado and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo, who had a spin at Turn 15 after putting a rear wheel on the grass on the approach.

McLaren-Honda’s troubles continued. Jenson Button managed just six laps and team-mate Kevin Magnussen seven – achieving 14th and 15th fastest times – before the team ran into yet another problem with the Honda engine.

Australian Grand Prix First Practice Results
Pos. Car # Driver Best Time Behind Gap
1 6 Nico Roseberg 1:29.557 Leader Leader
2 44 Lewis Hamiton 1:29.586 -0.029 -0.029
3 77 Valtteri Bottas 1:30.748 -1.227 -1.198
4 55 C. Sainz 1:31.014 -1.457 -0.230
5 5 Sebastian Vettel 1:31.029 -1.472 -0.015
6 33 Max Verstappen 1:31.067 -1.510 -0.038
7 19 Felipe Massa 1:31.188 -1.631 -0.121
8 7 Kimi Raikkonen 1:31.310 -1.753 -0.122
9 13 Pastor Maldonado 1:31.451 -1.894 -0.141
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo 1:31.570 -2.013 -0.119
11 26 Daniil Kvyat 1:32.073 -2.516 -0.503
12 11 Sergio Perez 1:32.247 -2.690 -0.174
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg 1:32.261 -2.704 -0.014
14 22 Jenson Button 1:34.542 -4.985 -2.281
15 20 Kevin Magnussen 1:34.785 -5.228 -0.243
16 8 Romain Grojean 2:17.782 -48.225 -42.997
17 9 Marcus Ericsson 0:00.000 89.557 137.782
17 12 Felipe Nasr 0:00.000 89.557 0.000
17 28 Will Stevens 0:00.000 89.557 0.000
17 98 Roberto Merhi 0:00.000 89.557 0.000

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