Hamilton fastest in Australia as F1 prepares for a new era
Not even Nostradamus would be able to predict what will happen this season
LEWIS HAMILTON confirmed his status as favourite for the new Formula 1 season by setting the fastest time on the first day of practice ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of a highly-anticipated season.
With a raft of major rule changes to contend with, many of the teams, including the previously dominant Red Bull, have struggled in pre-season testing. Mercedes, on the other hand, appear to have prospered.
However, Hamilton's day was not without incident. The Guardian describes it as a "typically mercurial" return to action for the British driver.
"In the first practice session with the redesigned, smaller-engined cars, Hamilton lasted just one lap before his Mercedes came to a stop, shut down because of a sensor calibration problem. Then he was stopped by a security official from entering the paddock because he had forgotten his pass," reports the paper. "But in the second, afternoon session he returned to finish top of the timesheets pushing his team-mate Nico Rosberg into second place using soft tyres."
Fernando Alonso of Ferrari was third, and in what was described as the "surprise of the day", Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel recorded the fourth-fastest lap.
Jenson Button of McLaren was fifth, while the Briton's new team mate Kevin Magnussen posted the tenth-fastest time. New Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen was half-a-second slower than his team mate and ended the session seventh, behind Vettel's new Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who has replaced Mark Webber.
Although their times in practice were nothing to write home about, "Williams and Force India were the only teams to suffer no discernible reliability problems, and the former seem to be Mercedes likeliest challengers this weekend", says the Daily Telegraph.
The Times concurs. "Speed is secondary here... and reliability is the key," writes Kevin Eason in The Times, noting that no-one has actually gone race distance in their new car as yet.
It all adds to the sense of uncertainty. "Even Nostradamus did not make any predictions about the 2014 Formula 1 world championship", writes Paul Weaver in The Guardian.
"Yet the rule changes, viewed as a whole, must be embraced with enthusiasm because, principally, they will shake up the old order as never before. The deck has not only been thoroughly shuffled but many of the cards will be strewn on the floor after the first race of the season."