Lewis Hamilton in gravel and McLaren in trouble as F1 starts
Red Bull set the pace in Australian Grand Prix testing, but McLaren struggle badly
THE 2013 Formula 1 season got underway with the first day of testing at Melbourne ahead of Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, and it appeared to be business as usual as reigning champion Sebastian Vettel set an "ominous pace" in his Red Bull while new Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the session.
As the dust settled on the first exchanges of the season, Hamilton's decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes looked sensible, at least before he put his car in the gravel. The British driver was a full second-and-a-half faster than his former team-mate Jenson Button and nearly two seconds quicker than Sergio Perez, the man who now has his seat at McLaren.
Yet the fact that both Mercedes cars failed to complete the session may have set off alarm bells. Hamilton lost control and ended up in a gravel trap while team-mate Nico Rosberg withdrew with a gearbox problem.
The team that came off worst, though, was McLaren. "With the opening race of the season only hours away, the gap between McLaren and the all-conquering Red Bulls at the front already looks too substantial to bridge," laments the Daily Telegraph, while The Sun screams that the team had been "plunged into crisis after being left for dust by their rivals ahead of the new Formula One season".
It was a different story for Red Bull and its drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. "The talk all winter has been about whether Red Bull were showing their true colours in pre-season testing as they posted a succession of lacklustre times," reports The Times.
"Now Formula 1 knows that there was plenty more in the Red Bull tank after Vettel finished the day as the fastest man here, backed up by Mark Webber, his team-mate, who finished second." ·