LOCAL BOY MAKES GOOD
Australia’s own MARK WEBBER/Red Bull Racing topped the charts more than once Friday afternoon for the first of two ninety-minute Formula One practice sessions at Albert Park, in preparation for the Qantas Grand Prix. What’s more important is that the crucial point was being fastest at the checkered flag. Weber ran a 1:26.831, the only driver in the 26’s.
Weber toppled his teammate, 2010 F1 World Champion SEBASTIAN VETEL, who led for quite awhile. Vettel was second at the end, followed by FERNANDO ALONSO/Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, NICO ROSBERG/Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team-who survived an off-on in Turn Seven; RUBENS BARRICHELLO/AT&T WILLIAMS; JENSON BUTTON and teammate LEWIS HAMILTON/Vodafone McLaren Mercedes; MICHAEL SCHUMACHER/Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team; KAMUI KOBAYASHI/Sauber F1 Team; and VITALY PETROV/Lotus Renault GP.
Kobayashi’s teammate, Rookie SERGIO PEREZ of Mexico ran as high as ninth before ending seventeenth. Perez is the first F1 driver from Mexico in 30 years. He’s the only driver representing North America. Neither the US nor Canada have any F1 drivers.
SERGIO PEREZ/Sauber finished ninth overall in his first F1 practice session.
This year’s lineup includes five World Champions, all in the top eight drivers.
Team Lotus substituted KARUN CHANDHOK for JARNO TRULLI for the first Friday practice. Less than four hours later, Chandhok crashed the car two minutes into the session. He drove askew towards the Turn Four wall, spun and his the wall. Chandhok is OK, but the car has several frontal damage. His Pirelli tires appeared to be yellow, which would have made them the soft compound.
The beleaguered HRT team didn’t make it out at all during the session. The garage doors have been shut all morning. Driver NARAIN KARTHIKEYAN was in pit lane, in civvies.
The trick for a F1 driver to get in the F1 gate without being noticed by the groups of fans camped out for a look, photo and/or autograph is to come in right behind Mark Weber. Friday morning, the crowd went wild while Karthikeyan got out and in the Swipe gate completely unnoticed. Perhaps he wouldn’t have been noticed anyhow.
Another driver commanding a huge roar from the viewing stand was MICHAEL SCHUMACHER/Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team. His chauffeured Jeep-like vehicle drove further in towards the gate, but he got out and walked over to the adoring fans. At that point another car pulled up and FELIPE MASSA/Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro got out. Schumacher warmly greeted his former Ferrari teammate and enveloped him in a huge bear hug. They both visited the viewing stand.
The second Friday practice is at 6 pm local time.