Mercedes executed a flawless Friday at the Australian Grand Prix to cement its place as favourites for the first race weekend of 2015.
Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton finished an untroubled one-two during both free practice sessions, and in the process confirmed that Formula One in 2015 is already significantly faster its was 12 months ago.
The fastest time set at the Australian Grand Prix in 2014 was 1 minute 29.375 seconds, while the stopwatch clocked Rosberg’s fastest time this year at 1:27.697.
The surprise package of practice, however, was the continued solid performance by both Ferrari drivers, who slotted in comfortably behind the two Silver Arrows and were six-tenths of a second off the pace.
Sebastian Vettel was third on the timesheets by the end of the day, four-tenths up on teammate Kimi Räikkönen. Both seemed happy on Friday night having checked all boxes for the day.
Valtteri Bottas finished fifth quickest in the sole Williams competing in FP2, while Felipe Massa was kept out of the car by an engine water leak.
Red Bull Racing’s Friday improved little over the course of the day. Daniil Kvyat added 27 laps to the 18 he completed in FP1, but Daniel Ricciardo was unable to join the session due to an engine change.
The Australian complained of peaky engine performance during the first session, a problem down to the internal combustion unit, but the team was unable to complete the change before the end of the second 90-minute session.
Suffering similar misfortune was McLaren, for which the misery continues, and hopes of a comeback to rival that of Red Bull Racing this time last year appear thoroughly dashed.
The silver (and red) cars languished at the bottom of the timesheets for a second consecutive session, and though three seconds were found in the switch to softer rubber, it did little to improve the Honda-powered teams’ stock.
The legal drama that forced the embattled Sauber to restrain both Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson to the garages during FP1 seemed to have little bearing on the team in the second session.
Ericsson and Nasr counted a much-needed 47 laps between them, though the former’s ca developed a rear-left suspension problem that truncated his running to just 14 of those.
Manor, for all its efforts in travelling to Melbourne, were again unable to fire up their cars for practice, and appear increasingly unlikely to take part in any running this weekend.