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As it happened: Friday - Practice
By Matt Beer, Sam Tremayne, Edd Straw, Ben Anderson and Scott Mitchell
The live commentary has ended. No further updates will be posted.
00:56 Good morning and welcome to the start of the new, expanded, bigger, better and longer AUTOSPORT Live Formula 1 coverage from the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

00:56 We'll still be bringing you the usual comprehensive blow-by-blow commentary on what's happening on track in each session - but that's now just part of the AUTOSPORT Live GP weekend service.

00:59 Live will be running as a news blog throughout the F1 weekend, including additional information, quotes and analysis from our paddock team on top of the flow of news stories to bring readers closer than ever to what's happening over the whole grand prix event - and inviting you to chip in with your observations too.

01:00 EDD STRAW is heading trackside now to provide up-close observations of the cars' behaviour when the first session commences in half an hour.

01:01 Here's what Marussia is planning for the morning:

"Today we'll be working mainly towards the race, devoting only a brief window to some lower fuel evaluations. Aero assessments throughout."

01:03 Earlier this week, Marussia sporting director Graeme Lowdon spoke to EDD STRAW for The Racer's Edge with F1 Racing and AUTOSPORT, giving his view of both his team's chances in 2014, and what the rules revamp means for the entire sport:

01:08 Meanwhile, Marussia's tail-end rival Caterham is being intimidated by flying things:

"You always know it's about to get serious at #AusGP when the air fills with the sound of planes flying VERY LOW overhead.. NNNEEEEOOOOWWWW"

01:17 There have been fears that with F1 teams still grappling with the complexities of the 2014 cars - and particularly how to solve problems on them - we might see drivers sitting out practice sessions, even though they need all the mileage they can get.

This is unlikely to be an issue today, though. Instead it's Saturday morning that could be quiet, as Romain Grosjean explains:

"Friday morning is fine. Saturday morning is more a question mark. It's part of the sport. You need to be a little bit lucky, assess the risk, see what it brings to drive or to stay in the garage.

"Saturday morning may be a tricky one because if you have any problem with the car, even a leak on the batteries, that's the end of the story.

"I may have a lay-in on Saturday morning!"

01:22 Plenty of nervous team bosses getting ready to watch this first free practice session of the new season. A step into the unknown for Formula 1.

01:25 Five minutes to go now until the Australian Grand Prix on-track action begins.

01:30 Jenson Button is among those strapped into their car ready for the start of the session. He's relieved the season's ready to begin after the uncertainty of pre-season testing.

"It’s nice to get in the car at the first race," he said. "Wherever you are. All the pre-season hype and bullshit we all go through!

"It’s nice to finally put your visor down, get out there and do the bit you love doing."

01:30 F1 2014 has begun, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari is first to hit the track.

01:32 We'll be watching the Renault-engined teams with particular interest in this first session. They've all suffered a problematic pre-season, but the French manufacturer's head of track operations, Remi Taffin, told AUTOSPORT last night that it is confident its reliability troubles are a thing of the past. We shall see...

01:33 Alonso is back in after an installation lap, as is McLaren's rookie Kevin Magnussen.

01:34 Sutil continues round in his Sauber, straight into a second lap.

01:34 We have seen some Renault cars in action - Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso and Marcus Ericsson's Caterham have been out.

01:35 Two laps to his name but Sutil is in fact in the pits.

01:35 Groans here in the media centre as championship favourite Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes grinds to a halt on-track.

01:36 Smoke emerging from the back of the Mercedes. He's straight on the team radio to inform the team and is now clambering from the car.

01:36 He's out of the W05 and walking away. The worst start possible for the pre-season pacesetters.

01:36 "Car's stopped, some smoke out of the back," Hamilton reports.

"Looks like we've got an engine kill," replies the team.

01:37 Furrowed brows on the Mercedes pit wall as the recovery vehicle approaches the stricken Mercedes.

01:39 Just four drivers didn't get out in that (very) early flurry of installation laps: Vettel (Red Bull); Chilton (Marussia) and the Lotus duo of Grosjean and Maldonado.

The latter two not emerging in the opening minutes is unsurprising. Hamilton being the first driver to break down is more of a shock.

01:39 Mercedes was nervous about reliability heading to Melbourne, despite all the mileage it managed in pre-season. With such a strict limit on engines this early failure does not bode well.

01:39 EDD STRAW has a trackside report on the Hamilton stoppage.

"At Turn 8, just before where Hamilton stopped. Car sounded fine under braking and on downshift but very reluctant to pick up again once through the corner."

01:41 Some grinding going on in the Red Bull garage already! It sounds like Bahrain pre-season testing all over again for the world champion team...

01:42 Jean-Eric Vergne's early report on the Toro Rosso:

"Pretty good, engine sounds quite decent. Nothing major at the moment."

As his debrief continues, he adds that it's pretty rough over the bumps.

01:42 Hamilton's car is now cleared.

01:42 Speaking of Red Bull, Ricciardo heads back out of the pits as the running resumes.

01:43 Magnussen joins Ricciardo on track.

01:45 Ricciardo continues onto what looks like a proper flying lap. Is the first timed effort of a 2014 race weekend imminent?

01:45 With Red Bull now running, the only team we haven't seen anything of at all is the troubled Lotus squad.

But it has been making some behind-the-scenes moves, announcing the promotion of team stalwart Federico Gastaldi to deputy team boss a few moments ago:

Lotus appoints Gastaldi as deputy team principal

01:46 It is! Ricciardo sets a 1m37.290s. That's 10s off the fastest FP1 time from last year, but that would be very harsh to make a direct comparison at this stage.

EDD STRAW notes from the side of the track that the Red Bull-Renault "sounds markedly better than it did during the last Bahrain test. That said, this impression is only based on the car cruising past twice."

01:46 Radio update for Kvyat: "We have completed our checks and everything looks good. We'll try to go out again as soon as possible."

The GP3 champion lives up to Russian stereotypes by responding with silence.

01:47 More cars on track now. Bottas, Vergne and Rosberg. Will the latter last longer in motion that his team-mate?

01:47 Button joins McLaren team-mate Magnussen on the circuit now too.

01:47 Magnussen sets our second flying lap of 2014 with a 1m37.762s.

01:47 "To make a quick car reliable is generally easier than making a reliable car quick." Sebastian Vettel is hoping to discover whether Red Bull's RB10 is fast, once the team gets his version running. For now, he'll have to look to team-mate Daniel Ricciardo to give him a clue.

01:47 Ricciardo immediately lowers the benchmark to 1m35.168s the next time around.

01:48 Williams tells Bottas that he's on for a seven-lap run next.

01:48 Alonso returns to the track, Bianchi emerges in the Marussia.

01:48 While Rosberg is instructed to do a "big brake" to get his brake temperatures up.

01:48 Magnussen improves his time to 1m36.671s, 1.5s slower than Ricciardo.

01:49 Strange to see the Williams lapping in the new white Martini livery, after a pre-season spent in the team's traditional dark blue. Cool to see these iconic colours back at the top level of our sport after nearly four decades away.

01:49 Bottas gets on the timing screens proper with a 1m38.776s. Three times on the board for F1 2014.

01:50 Ricciardo shaves more time off the early session best, lowering it to 1m35.043s. He's now purple in sector two.

01:50 Hulkenberg and Raikkonen add another couple of cars to the track.

01:51 Much bigger improvement this time from Ricciardo, into the 1m34s - 1m34.600s to be precise.

01:51 "Quite a lot of bottoming," reports Rosberg. His engineer puts this down to low tyre pressures and urges him to bring them up, while being aware of the gap to Ricciardo.

01:51 Rosberg, Vergne and Button have posted times now - and are fourth, fifth and sixth respectively.

01:52 Comedy moment in the paddock as an official tries to ask a fully suited Lewis Hamilton to show his pass as he trudges back to the pits!

01:52 Bottas jumps ahead of Magnussen into second (1m35.513s) and is going even faster this time around.

01:52 Vergne leaps to second in the Toro Rosso, 0.910s slower than Ricciardo and 0.003s faster than Magnussen's McLaren.

01:53 Problems for Ferrari and Raikkonen.

"Box, box, there's something not working on the MGU-K," is the message from the pits.

"Yeah, I don't have power," Raikkonen replies.

01:53 Kvyat and Perez add to the list of re-emerges in FP1 for a proper run.

01:53 Alonso goes quickest - 1m33.127s. Comfortably quickest.

01:54 And Rosberg immediately tops it by 0.343s.

01:54 And now McLaren has issues too - Button also gets a "we have a problem" message and is told to pit.

01:55 According to EDD STRAW: "Bottas and the Williams look superb on the entry to Turn 9. Rear sticks on turn in and any movement there is is corrected so easily. Carrying good speed into the corner as a result."

He's seventh at present, 2.9s slower than Rosberg's session-leading 1m32.784s.

01:56 Rosberg trims a tenth or so off his best, lowering the bar to 1m32.604s.

01:57 Ricciardo just came close to giving us our first shunt of a 2014 practice session, as he ran wide out of the quick left/right. He flirts with the grass, catches it and continues.

01:57 Drivers look as though they're really trying in this first part of the session, making the most of an extra set of tyres made available by Pirelli.

01:58 Alonso goes fastest by a nose, 1m32.588s.

01:58 And at the same moment as Ricciardo's near-miss on the other side of the track, Sergio Perez spins his Force India into Turn 3.

It's not a case of 2014 torque or braking systems catching him out, he just dropped a wheel on the grass under braking in the time-honoured manner.

01:58 We have 10 teams on the leaderboard now. The spread between Alonso and Button, slowest of those to set a time, is 5.8s.

01:59 Ricciardo has made an encouraging early start for Red Bull, racking up the most laps of anyone in the opening half hour with 11.

He's the only driver into double figures, though Bottas will soon join him.

01:59 Bottas pits before he has chance to tick over to 10 laps.

Only Hulkenberg and Sutil remain on circuit.

01:59 And, of course, the Germans pit - just to make AUTOSPORT Live look foolish.

02:00 Just like that, we're 30 minutes into the first free practice session of 2014.

Flies by, doesn't it?

02:00 So half an hour in, the main developments so far:

* Alonso first on track and fastest in the early laps.
* Ricciardo first man to set a flying lap.
* Hamilton stops on track on his first run. Raikkonen and Button also have to pit with problems.
* No sign of Lotus on track yet.
* Perez is 2014's first spinner.

02:02 Both the twin-tusk Lotus E22s are up on stands in the garage. The drivers are both confident the car will be quick once they get it running reliably, but at the moment neither is running at all...

02:03 Frantic start to FP1, though that was to be expected after such an inconclusive pre-season for many teams.

In addition to the two Lotus cars, Vettel is also yet to emerge.

02:05 Vergne is debriefing after his first runs. The Toro Rosso team is planning some adjustments to the brake-by-wire settings as he's had issues with the front brakes locking and the rear brakes not helping much.

He also feels the Renault engine is lacking in torque on its current setting, leaving him slow out of several corners.

02:06 That lull didn't last long. Button, problem apparently solved, emerges, as does Gutierrez.

02:06 McLaren says everything now "looks good" and asks for six timed laps from Button.

Button performed a practice start from the end of the pitlane prior to joining the circuit. Mercedes customer McLaren managed plenty of them in pre-season testing in Bahrain.

There are fears the Renault-engined teams will struggle to get their cars off the line, though Taffin played down those fears when we spoke to him yesterday.

02:07 Button crosses the line and is onto only his sixth lap, as Gutierrez makes it three in the Sauber.

02:08 Personal best for Button, who goes third on a 1m33.522s.

02:09 Gutierrez goes 10th on a 1m36.825s.

Daniel Ricciardo02:10 Pictures are starting to roll in from our trackside photographers, including proof that Red Bulls run.

02:10 Next time around, Button lowers his best to a 1m32.893s. That puts him within three tenths of Alonso's benchmark.

02:12 Rookie Kvyat, propping up the list of drivers to have set a time, emerges in the Toro Rosso.

02:12 Button doesn't know what times he's doing, though, calling his team to say "I'm not getting any laptimes on the steering wheel". He's duly updated.

02:12 The Russian's team-mate, Jean-Eric Vergne, also rejoins the action.

02:12 Fastest first sector of anyone for Button on this lap.

02:13 And again in sector two...

02:13 Good lap from the Brit. Button goes quickest in the McLaren, lapping Albert Park in 1m32.357s.

02:14 Ricciardo rejoins in the Red Bull. Vergne and Kvyat are on personal bests.

02:16 Kvyat brings the gap from fastest (Button, 1m32.357s) to slowest (himself, 1m36.119s) to 3.7s as he improves.

Vergne stays fourth and doesn't improve after a scruffy final sector.

02:16 Raikkonen is back out now in the Ferrari.

02:17 "Are we OK to talk on the radio about balance?" asks a very casual Button.

"Starting to lock rears towards the end of the lap when the rear tyres are overheating. That's starting to cost us.

"I think we should maybe go one step on the brake balance."

02:17 Improvement for Ricciardo, who splits Alonso and Rosberg on a 1m32.599s.

That's 0.011s slower than the Spaniard in second.

02:17 Lotus hints at an imminent on-track move from Pastor Maldonado by noting that he's put his helmet on.

02:18 Hulkenberg is back out now, so too Force India team-mate Perez. Massa out in the Martini Williams.

02:18 The first flying lap from Raikkonen is imminent. It'll be about fifth for the Finn.

02:18 But we won't be seeing any Caterhams for a bit:

"We have issues on both cars after their installation laps - fuel system for @kamui_kobayashi and electrical for @Ericsson_Marcus"

02:18 It is fifth for the Finn. 1m33.345s for Raikkonen.

02:20 EDD STRAW's moved along at the side of the track.

"At the fast Turn 11/12 left/right sweep. It's great to see the high-speed change of direction.

"The Toro Rosso is a bit hesitant in the transition between the two corners as Vergne can't quite commit as decisively as he would like to when throwing the car into the right-hander.

"After an initial turn in, has to modulate a little to keep the rear under control. He's driving well but the car doesn't quite have the rear grip he wants.

"Alonso's Ferrari looks a bit more stable dealing with this transition. Notably, the Red Bull looks well-balanced, although that is no great surprise."

02:21 We're expecting responses to the sound of the new F1 cars to be a bit mixed, but it's still a bit of a surprise to see an Audi LMP1 driver complaining about another racing car's noise!

Marco Bonanomi: "What a horrible sound from the new #F1cars! Our #R18 is way better even with the TDI !"

02:21 Vettel leaves the pits for the first time.

02:21 Vergne's had a minor moment at Turn 1, but continued.

02:22 "I had an off-track!" shouts Kvyat down the radio.

"OK Dani, everything OK?" replies the team.

"Yeah, yeah, no problem, just letting you know..."

"OK, thank you, keep pushing."

02:23 That incident for Kvyat occurred at Turn 1. He's following his more experienced team-mate's example perfectly.

02:24 Nine cars on track, including eight of the top 10.

02:24 Massa improves to sixth quickest in the Williams (1m33.358s) and immediately backs off.

02:24 Mercedes reveals more about Hamilton's problem. Nothing dramatic, but frustratingly time-consuming:

"Update on @LewisHamilton's car.. An oil pressure alarm led to a precautionary engine shutdown. Cause to be investigated when car returns #F1"

If you're just joining us, Hamilton's car ground to a halt on its first lap earlier.

02:25 Sounds like McLaren has had issues on both cars this morning. The team tells Magnussen that the power unit is now working correctly, which rather implies there was a time when it wasn't...

02:26 Four different makes in the top four places this morning, and less than a quarter of a second covers Button, Alonso, Ricciardo and Rosberg.

If that's any indication of this weekend (a long shot at this stage) then Sunday will be fantastic! Long way to go yet, though.

02:27 Massa's on it again after a slow-down lap and is about to improve in the Williams (currently sixth).

02:27 Alonso also visits the grass at Turn 1, following the Toro Rossos' example. He continues unscathed, and didn't go as far into the dirt as Kvyat.

02:28 Massa shoots up to second on that lap, just 0.074s slower than Button.

Alonso's recovered from that off and is absolutely flying on this lap.

02:28 Alonso goes quickest on a 1m31.840s.

Magnussen jumps to sixth in the McLaren.

Valtteri Bottas02:28 As Massa jumps up the order, here's a proper look at the Martini-liveried Williams.

With the launch taking place under studio lights and the on-track shots issued by the team all having an 'atmospheric' haze edited into them (either that or there was some very weird pollution in the air on that fiming day), today is the first proper chance to judge how cool the car looks.

02:29 Toro Rosso asks Vergne to continue pushing after his Turn 1 excursion. He's not over-keen given his discomfort with how the braking system is working.

02:29 Bottas now moves into sixth, 0.960s behind Alonso's new benchmark.

02:30 EDD STRAW reports that the Williams "is not quite as convincing in high-speed". Massa, third fastest, and Bottas, sixth as aforementioned, have to be "a bit hesitant in the direction change between T11/12".

However, STRAW concludes that it is "early in the run so might not have the tyres quite in the window".

02:31 That said, Massa is still lapping in the mid-1m32s and that's impressive stuff from the Brazilian.

02:31 We are all hoping the radical technical overhaul of Formula 1 for this season will make it more unpredictable, after four years of Red Bull domination. Currently, cars from seven different teams occupy the top 10 on the timesheet with less than half an hour to run in FP1.

02:31 Quietening down again now heading into the final half hour. Five cars on track, including Chilton, who joins the timesheet in last place (14th) then promptly pits.

So four cars on track!

02:32 Bit of an awkward pit arrival for Chilton, who appears to bump into some team equipment as he parks.

02:32 Vettel's one of those cars still circulating, by the way.

02:33 "If the engine is clean, five timed laps please Sebastian," asks the world champion's team.

02:33 Alonso's also still running, and is just 0.154s shy of his own best time on that last lap - which included a purple final sector.

02:34 Bottas makes it 15 laps for FP1 as Sutil emerges. Only 14 times on the board, one an unrepresentative Max Chilton effort.

02:35 Just under half an hour to go, headlines so far:

* Alonso fastest, ahead of Button, Massa and Ricciardo.
* Lotus yet to come out of garage.
* An oil pressure sensor shuts down Hamilton's Mercedes on its first run.
* Perez has a spin, several cars harmlessly visit the grass.

02:35 Vettel gets on the board with a 1m34.593s. That's 13th fastest.

02:38 Lotus is buckling Maldonado into the car like a team about to do some running.

02:38 Leading the lap count so far is Vergne, whose Toro Rosso has racked up 20 laps. The good news continues for Renault - Ricciardo is next up on 18.

Bottas is also on 18 laps as the leading Mercedes representative while Alonso has 14 laps in the Ferrari.

02:38 Button is back out in the McLaren. Can he wrest back top spot from Alonso with 22 minutes remaining?

02:39 Vettel's up to eighth now and still improving. His last effort was a 1m32.974s, 1.1s slower than Alonso.

02:39 Sutil's made it 15 drivers with a time to their name. He's slowest of that group though, 6.182s off the pace.

02:39 Williams asks Bottas to cool the brakes on his in-lap as rear temperatures are high.

02:40 While his team-mate was struggling a bit with direction, Bottas looks more comfortable according to EDD STRAW.

"He seems able to take a big bite of the kerb on entry to 11/12 without any ill-effects," our man notes. "The Williams still looking very user friendly."

02:41 And, pleased with his work in impressing STRAW, Bottas pits. Eighteen laps in FP1 for the Finn.

02:41 As he does so, out comes Rosberg.

02:41 Maldonado's being strapped into the Lotus. Is he about to emerge?

02:42 Lotus being informative:

"Just to confirm, we've been doing some stuff with the car. Stuff."

02:42 More braking frowns for Toro Rosso, as Kvyat reports some strange behaviour at Turn 3.

02:43 Is Button winding himself up for a proper effort? That wasn't spectacular (1.9s off the pace), so this could either be a longer run or just a slow burner from Jenson.

02:43 Well, it's a personal best in sector one this time around from Button...

02:44 Bottas, incidentally, had hauled his Williams to fourth in the times before pitting. That's third and fourth for the Martini squad, good effort. They really could shake things up this weekend.

Or stir them. Either way.

02:45 Button falls just short of his own personal best on that run. He's now backed off again.

02:45 A few more cars out now. Button, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Kvyat and Sutil.

02:45 Sutil felt a bit swamped by the last set of radio instructions from Sauber, which sounded pretty incomprehensible to AUTOSPORT, it must be said:

"Next time, please say it a little slower as that is a lot of instructions all in one go."

"It's OK Adrian, that was abnormal. Next time it will be less."

02:45 There's Maldonado! The Lotus emerges.

02:46 And Button "still can't find my laptime on the steering wheel".

The team does it's not quite sure what's going on with his display, so reads him some laptimes and reminds him to cool the brakes.

02:47 This out-lap (at least) for Maldonado means Lotus team-mate Grosjean is the only man to remain garage-bound for the whole session with 12 minutes to go.

02:47 It is just an installation lap for Maldonado, who pits.

02:48 Raikkonen runs wide at Turn 1, but keeps it on the astroturf rather than taking to the grass as his team-mate did earlier.

02:48 Lots more cars out now (too many to list quickly). Twelve of the top 13, we'll say that. Only Vettel in the pits of those drivers.

02:49 Button pits. Could that be job done for the morning? Just over 10 minutes on the clock so you'd assume so.

02:50 Maldonado's Lotus slows right down and then skates into the Turn 13 gravel. He makes it back out and continues a cruise back to the pits.

02:51 Raikkonen goes green in sector two but there are no obvious, big improves with eight and a half minutes remaining.

02:51 Maldonado waves from the cockpit as he trundles into the pitlane, beckoning marshals and his Lotus team to come to help him.

02:51 Raikkonen brings his best down to a 1m32.977s, but he remains ninth.

02:52 Replays show smoke coming into the cockpit from behind the steering wheel just before Maldonado went off.

02:53 Raikkonen's not going to improve further on this run as he brings his Ferrari into the pits.

02:53 Massa joins the club of drivers who braked too late for Turn 1 and skipped over the grass.

02:54 Vettel out, Rosberg in. The latter had a very under-the-radar run.

02:55 Bottas, breaking the lull in laptime improvement, goes fastest of anyone in the middle sector.

02:56 Vettel's radio isn't working well, leading to the slightly surreal sound of his engineer 'Rocky' repeating instructions while the champion keeps saying "please repeat, no radio".

The radio starts working again further round the lap.

02:56 The Finn left himself with a lot to do after a fairly sluggish first sector, though, and he doesn't improve.

02:56 Another unmitigated disaster for the Lotus team this session, so we're still no closer to finding out whether the E22 has the potential Romain Grosjean claims it might.

02:56 With little in the way of times to bring you, let's go back to EDD STRAW. Where are you now, Edd, and what have you got for us?

"Standing on the straight between Turns 10 and 11, it's a reminder of how much quieter the engines are this year. You can stand a metre or two from the cars at flat chat and not be instantly defeaned!

"Still sounds impressive though. The old V8s offered a powerful wall of noise, but the new engines all sound different and there is so much more texture to the sound."

02:57 Magnussen slides over the grass at Turn 1, and now Kvyat does likewise after his third wild braking moment of the session. That's the furthest into the gravel Kvyat has been, but he still gets the Toro Rosso back on track.

02:57 Button's back out after all. Less than three minutes on the clock, will he be the man to topple Alonso from his perch?

02:58 Half a dozen drivers without times. We know Hamilton's not heading out, nor the Lotus drivers. And no sign of a last-minute appearance from the Caterhams or Bianchi's Marussia.

02:58 Chilton went to the end of the pitlane ready to go out again, but ran into trouble and has been pushed back.

02:59 Alonso brings his Ferrari into the pits. His work his done for this morning - which he looks likely to end on top.

02:59 And there's Bianchi emerging, just to prove AUTOSPORT Live wrong.

03:00 The chequered flag flies. FP1 is at an end.

03:00 Another Toro Rosso off the road - Vergne has been right through the gravel at Turn 3.

He reaches the escape road at the other end of the run-off and gets going.

03:02 Bianchi gets onto the timing screen proper right at the end of the session. The Marussia man ends FP1 16th fastest, slowest of those to set a proper time and 9s off Alonso's benchmark.

03:04 Australian Grand Prix FP1 results:
1 Alonso (Ferrari) 1m31.840s
2 Button (McLaren) +0.517s
3 Bottas (Williams) +0.563s
4 Massa (Williams) +0.591s
5 Ricciardo (Red Bull) +0.759s
6 Rosberg (Mercedes) +0.764s
7 Vettel (Red Bull) +0.953s
8 Magnussen (McLaren) +1.007s
9 Raikkonen (Ferrari) +1.137s
10 Vergne (Toro Rosso). +1.606s.

03:05 Some thoughts from EDD STRAW at the end of that session. First, to the session-topping Ferrari.

"Again noticeable with the Ferrari are the super smooth downshifts. The car looks strong on corner entry. That said, drivers seem to have to be a bit more cautious on throttle application at corner exits."

03:06 And here are Ferrari's own thoughts:

"Hard! Still a lot of work to do."

03:08 STRAW's thoughts on the McLaren, with Button second and Magnussen eighth:

"It looks decent in Turns 11/12 in the hands of both drivers. While not quite as decisive on turn in, it is planted once in the corner and able to carry good speed."

03:09 And completing our quick-fire, EDD STRAW round-up - the Red Bull. Much more encouraging stuff for the team, with Ricciardo comfortably racking up the laps early on and Vettel's late appearance making it both cars in the top seven.

"Having watched the Red Bulls all session, think it's safe to say they have made a decent step," notes STRAW. "Not hard perhaps, but car looks a much better baseline than what the team had in Bahrain. Still work to be done but encouraging."

03:20 Here are the main talking points from that session then:

* Fernando Alonso tops FP1 by half a second for Ferrari ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button

* Lewis Hamilton breaks down in the early moments with an oil pressure sensor issue with his Mercedes

* Williams rapid, Red Bull shows promise but Lotus and Caterham still in trouble

03:26 In terms of lappery, it was an encouraging morning's work for most teams:

* Vergne racked up 30 laps for Toro Rosso while rookie team-mate Kvyat ended with 27 to his name.

* McLaren's Magnussen (28) and Williams' Bottas (27) were the most productive of the Mercedes-powered brigade,

* Ferrari lagged in comparison, Alonso notching 20 laps and Raikkonen 19.

03:32 It's only FP1, but that result will have buoyed Jenson Button, who (like most) was unsure where his team sat in the pecking order heading to Oz.

Speaking yesterday, the Briton said: "It's a good basic car. I don't know where we stand compared to our competitors right now, but there will be a lot of change in the next few races.

"A few of the cars that were quick last year wont be slow for long. They'll be competitive very quickly I think. Hopefully we'll be quick sooner rather than later."

03:33 And we're already less than two hours from the start of FP2. Formula 1 is well and truly back.

03:37 Here's our comprehensive report from FP1, with Fernando Alonso beating Jenson Button to top spot in the opening session at the Australian Grand Prix. Times and lap count included:

Alonso and Ferrari fastest in practice one

03:43 The problems at Lotus continued in opening practice, with Maldonado managing just one installation lap before it started to cook. To add insult to injury, the team's former chief Eric Boullier's new squad McLaren challenged for top spot.

Romain Grosjean, who failed to even get out of the garage this morning, says the loss of Boullier is as big a blow as anything else - but he's well up for taking on his mentor when the E22 is up to speed.

"It’s different," he conceded. "First he was part of my management company so he was a good support and a good friend. It's strange to see him in grey but I think he was very important when I came here.

"Now it's the third year in a row [for Grosjean at Lotus] so I think I can as well fly with my own wings and from there it's going to be good to compete with him. I think he’s looking nice with the boss shirt!

03:46 Williams reckons it can match the development rate of its bigger Formula 1 money rivals if its pre-season promise is realised.

Williams: budget won't hold us back

03:53 Lotus claims "lots of potential" for the coming weekend. That's one way of looking at it after a first practice session in which neither driver set a time.

04:01 One of the smaller changes for F1 2014 is the introduction of permanent driver numbers.

That's prompted a some rather bland choices (such as Kimi Raikkonen picking #7 because he used it last year), but we also have the return of the #27 that's steeped in history.

That number was used to win 25 grands prix, the last of which came courtesy of Jean Alesi in the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix. Michele Alboreto used it the most (he made 80 starts with the number), but it's most commonly associated with one of F1's most famous names.

It was used by the venerated Gilles Villeneuve at the time of his death in 1982, and during the '81 season that featured some of his most celebrated drives.

As well as Alboreto, Alan Jones, Patrick Tambay, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell have also used this number. The only issue with Hulkenberg running it? Apparently, he wasn't hugely aware of its history when he picked it.

Much like Adrian Sutil not knowing he had Greg Moore's #99.

04:04 Tekno Holden driver Shane van Gisbergen has made it two wins from two F1-supporting V8 Supercars races.

Read about his lights-to-flag victory - a tense encounter nonetheless - right here:

van Gisbergen wins again in race two

04:10 Ex-F1 driver David Coulthard takes to the track in a Red Bull that works! Looks like it's last year's double title winning RB9 being demonstrated. Bet Sebastian Vettel would kill to get back into 'Hungry Heidi'...

04:11 In case you missed this announcement in the early stages of FP1, Lotus has appointed Federico Gastaldi as its new deputy team principal. Read the story here.

04:14 We're slowly adding to our gallery of the first race weekend of Formula 1 2014. Take a peek here:

Australian Grand Prix gallery

04:18 Has the Ferrari-McLaren-Williams top four in practice one - or Hamilton's early failure - changed your expectations for the weekend at all?

There's still plenty of time to make your Australian GP predictions in the Castrol EDGE Grand Prix Predictor, which is back again for 2014, and free and easy to play.

04:21 The AUTOSPORT team made our predictions for the top 10 in this year's championship earlier this week. Here's how we reckon 2014 will unfold...

AUTOSPORT predicts the 2014 F1 result

Daniil Kvyat04:23 Most common sight in morning practice in Melbourne today was a Toro Rosso skating over the grass/gravel/run-off.

Both Vergne and Kvyat had plenty of issues making the braking system work comfortably and slid off about half a dozen times between them.

To the young duo's credit, they always made it back onto the road after each adventure.

04:34 We had some surprises this morning, but one thing that did run according to testing form was the Williams, which was right in the mix with Bottas and Massa third and fourth.

Bottas admitted in Melbourne that while he was sure Williams had improved on 2014 and done everything it could, he was anxious to see if the big guns turned up in Australia with a lot more pace.

"I think it's very difficult to say what we should expect from the first race, it's difficult to say how much quicker some other teams can go – for example Mercedes, if they can still go quicker, or Ferrari.

"I'm sure McLaren is going to be quick, and it's only a matter of time before Red Bull come back – we'll see soon.

"Of course we hope for the best, we hope we're fighting for good points and maybe even podiums, but I think a good target for the first race would be to score good points, the more the better."

04:37 Mercedes remains hard to read, with Rosberg only sixth and Hamilton not getting to run at all after the sensor problem that stopped his W05 on its out-lap.

Where Hamilton slots in is one of the most intriguing questions going into this afternoon (FP2 is 55 minutes away, by the way).

The 2008 world champion is clearly fired up for this year, and he gave a great insight into how different the '14 cars are to drive in this exclusive interview for The Racer's Edge with F1 Racing and AUTOSPORT:

Part two of that interview, in which Hamilton gives some eye-opening answers to fans' questions, will be on at 8am UK time today.

04:41 Lunchtime in the paddock here in Melbourne. But no real break for the Caterham boys, who are raiding crates of spare parts to fix the cars in time for FP2.

Things look more relaxed outside the Lotus garage, where mechanics are eating lunch and Romain Grosjean is posing for photos with guests.

Also spied Ron Dennis and Eric Boullier in conversation. Ron has been a man about the paddock this weekend, while we await the appointment of an F1 CEO for the Woking squad.

No sign of Martin Whitmarsh anywhere...

Pastor Maldonado04:44 This was the scene at Lotus as practice came to a close this morning - frantic work still going on with the car, and Maldonado with his helmet on, ready to go.

When he did emerge, it was only briefly before first smoke poured into the cockpit, then he slid into the Turn 13 gravel. He got going again but only to cruise back to the pits.

04:45 Speaking of mechanics' busy 'lunchbreaks', AUTOSPORT's anonymous F1 insider The Secret Mechanic had a few things to say about the perception of F1 "downtime" in his column this month:

Secret Mechanic: The moment of truth

04:52 Unsurprisingly, the sound of the 2014 F1 cars has been a hot topic of conversation this morning as the world gets to hear them properly for the first time.

AUTOSPORT's team at the track have had no real complaints about the admittedly quieter V6 turbos, but they don't seem to be translating well through television speakers.

Intriguingly, one of the most vociferous groups on social media debating the F1 noise topic has been drivers from American motorsport.

IndyCar frontrunner Will Power said he was "missing the scream of the old F1 cars", while NASCAR's Michael McDowell suggested his child's go-kart was probably louder: "Maybe TV is not doing them justice. Are they even shifting? #EpicFail"

Ferrari04:54 Deliveries arriving at Ferrari today. Last-minute upgrades for the pacesetting F14 T? Or a new refrigerator for Kimi Raikkonen's ice cream supply?

05:08 Nico Rosberg probably spoke for a lot of people both inside and outside the paddock when he gave his verdict on the 2014 rules so far:

"There are two sides: one is that the sport is more contemporary because it is more about greener energy, more fuel efficiency. That is important because that is a direction that the world is going in. So that is a good side.

"So half of me is happy with that, on the other half the car is slower and I don't like going slower, so that side is not so happy."

05:11 Now we've finished being deafened by the Australian Air Force, we can gear up for the second session of Formula 1's quieter new turbocharged era. Only 20 minutes to go until FP2.

05:12 Let's have a look at some numbers from the first session while we wait.

Alonso was comfortably quicker in the first and third sectors of the lap, but both the Mercedes-powered McLaren of Jenson Button and similarly-propelled Williams of Valtteri Bottas shaded him in the middle sector.

Only Rosberg could get within a couple of tenths of Alonso's third sector time. Will that be repeated in the second session?

Jet05:15 Local favourite Daniel Ricciardo won't have been perturbed by that flypast that just took place - he took on a jet in a demonstration race earlier this week.

"I was pretty much alongside an F18 hornet doing a bit of a race, which was pretty cool.

"At one point we were going up the runway and I had a bit of a drag and could see it catching me in the mirrors – the only time you are actually happy to be caught by something in your mirrors.

"Normally you don't like a car behind you getting bigger but seeing that in the mirror was something that will stay in my memory bank forever. It was a pretty surreal feeling."

05:16 Max Chilton has joined the NASCAR and IndyCar contingent having a little dig at the sound of the new V6s.

The Marussia driver was impressed by that Australian Air Force display: "Finally some noise returns to the F1 paddock! #FighterJet"

05:26 Things to look out for in this session then:

* Whether Ferrari and McLaren continue to set the pace, or slip back as the track develops/their rivals recover

* If Mercedes can get Lewis Hamilton back out after his oil sensor issue, and if he's able to make up for lost time

* Is Red Bull's (and Renault's) strong start a false dawn, or is there cause for optimism for world champion Sebastian Vettel?

* If the Lotus or Caterham drivers are able to set a time

05:27 Vettel's already got his helmet on in the Red Bull garage. Alonso in less of a rush, but is back in the Ferrari garage now - sunglasses still on mind.

05:29 Alonso's not going anywhere just yet. Neither's Gutierrez, who watches on as his Sauber mechanics fettle with the car.

05:29 The second free practice session is going to be absolutely key for race planning. With only an hour of practice tomorrow morning before qualifying, teams and drivers will need a clear idea of their set-ups and strategies for Sunday off the back of this session.

05:30 Green flag, we're underway for FP2.

05:31 Sutil is first out of the pitlane. Grosjean slides into his Lotus and Marcus Ericsson is also out on track.

05:31 Vergne makes it three cars on the circuit.

05:32 Sutil continues round to start a potential flying lap early on.

Rosberg, Chilton, Massa, Bottas and Hamilton (problem hopefully solved) join in the fun.

05:32 Ericsson back into the pits after that installation lap.

05:33 Straight away we learn that we'll only see 21 cars at best in this session, as Caterham announces that Kamui Kobayashi won't make it out:

"Despite the best efforts of us & @RenaultSportF1, @Kamui_Kobayashi won't be running in FP2.

"We found a Power Unit related fuel system issue in FP1 & had to take the engine off @kamui_kobayashi's car to fix it so we can run tomorrow.

"Taking a 2014 Power Unit off the car is a complex job, taking much longer than the old V8s, hence no time to fix it to run in FP2.

"Obviously not what we wanted to do but we’re working with @RenaultSportF1 to come back fighting tomorrow."

05:34 Hulkenberg and Bianchi now part of the early running. So too is Magnussen - and we see Grosjean on the circuit as well.

Perez and Ricciardo complete the 13-strong group of runners at the moment.

05:34 And that's followed by bad news on the radio for the other Caterham of Marcus Ericsson.

"Stay in high gears, we are losing hydraulic pressure," the Swede is told.

05:34 First time on the board, 1m38.055s from Sutil.

05:35 Vergne immediately bumps Sutil off top sport...only by 2.928s.

05:36 Grosjean is on track, but things aren't going well. He tells Lotus that the power steering isn't working and he just had a false neutral.

05:36 Massa goes top on a 1m33.462s but then team-mate Bottas nips ahead by 0.235s.

05:36 Hamilton's first flying lap of the race weekend is a 1m35.748s, which puts him fourth of the early runners.

05:36 More American drivers unimpressed with the 2014 F1 acoustics!

This time Marco Andretti - "Watching F1 , they lost their mega sound" - and racer turned team boss Jimmy Vasser: "Oh no for #F1. looking slow ugly and that sound..."

05:36 Hulkenberg goes ahead of the two Williams drivers on a 1m33.094s.

05:37 Vettel and Button are winding up for their first contribution to the timing screen.

05:37 Rosberg blows Hulkenberg's time out of the water. No hanging around, it's a 1m32.013s.

05:38 A reminder that Alonso's FP1 benchmark was 1m31.840s, so we're already very close to that. Unsurprising, of course, as the track will evolve quickly.

05:39 Hulkenberg improves to 1m32.820s as Magnussen goes third, 0.961s slower than Rosberg.

05:39 Vettel pops into second, 0.742s behind on a 1m32.755s.

05:39 Red Bull asks Ricciardo how the car is. He's happy enough, but says the rear just got away from him and took him by surprise.

05:40 We already have 14 times on the board. The Marussias are slowest, Bianchi currently last on a 1m38.389s.

05:40 Bottas's flying, should be the fastest lap...

05:40 Slow final sector from Bottas, and he falls short by 0.678s.

05:41 Hulkenberg looked set for a very promising lap but has now pit.

05:42 Sutil returns to the Sauber pit with a jobs list: "Quite a lot of oversteer in the high speed, and also the power is not very good on the straights, and I lost the seamless shift a bit again at the end."

05:42 Rosberg goes purple in the first sector, but also brings it into the pits instead of completing the lap.

05:42 Quick scare for Magnussen as he runs wide onto the grass out of the fast Turn 11/12 competition. He catches it and McLaren gives him the green light to stay out and do another lap.

05:43 Button jumps to fourth in the McLaren, 0.717s slower than Rosberg, and has improved at the start of his next lap too.

05:44 As he does so, Bottas goes quickest through the middle sector. And then Button beats him! Will he pit, or see it through?

05:44 Bottas improves his time to go second, but then gets bumped to third as Button just misses out on top spot by a tenth of a second.

It's a 1m32.138s for the Briton. Rosberg's final sector was mighty.

05:45 Hamilton jumps to sixth, seven tenths back on his team-mate.

05:45 Looming problem for Alonso? He's told to "keep the battery high, and then we'll have a look at this issue".

05:45 So, a flurry of times in the opening 15 minutes or so. Rosberg's set the early benchmark (1m32.013s) with Button, Bottas, Vettel and Ricciardo completing the top five.

05:46 A number of drivers back into the pits now. Both Ferraris are still circulating and Raikkonen's moved into 10th.

05:46 Vettel outbrakes himself into Turn 1 and shoots over the grass in that common Friday error. He gets back on and resumes.

05:46 Whatever Alonso's issues may be, pace isn't one of them. He's straight into third, 0.248s slower than Rosberg.

05:47 Red Bull says it's Vettel's call whether to do another lap or not after that mistake. He says he's up for it.

05:47 Another session best middle sector for Button. How will his final sector stack up...

05:48 It's not enough. Another 1m32.2s though - the McLaren's looking quite strong at this stage.

05:48 Red Bull also points out to Vettel that the reason he went off there was because his left side wheels were on the grass. The world champion thanks his crew for the tip...

05:49 We're not going to see Kobayashi, and question marks hang over Maldonado, but Gutierrez is also yet to emerge.

Remember, the Sauber mechanics were still tinkering away as the session started.

05:49 Alonso gets ahead of Button, but falls 0.033s short of Rosberg.

05:50 The top 10 is covered by less than a second at present.

05:50 Vettel pits with a personal best looming. He remains fourth, 0.621s back.

05:52 Worth noting that, having used the medium tyre again for those early runs, we're likely to see the soft-compound Pirellis in use before too long.

Whether that comes before or after some long-run work remains to be seen.

05:53 Raikkonen's Ferrari seems to be in trouble in the pit exit.

05:53 Team-mate Alonso briefly got trapped behind the Finn and had to drive around him.

05:54 Raikkonen's car is now being pushed back down the pitlane by the marshals.

He reports that he can't get first gear, and after initially saying that it was looking at the problem, Ferrari radios him and says "switch off, there is no way..."

05:55 There we go then. Out comes Rosberg, in a soft-shod Mercedes.

05:55 Hearing that Pastor Maldonado's Lotus has a problem with its ERS (energy recovery systems). If it's a serious issue, the team might well not be able to get him out this session.

05:56 Meanwhile, on the medium tyre it seems, Ricciardo has gone quickest in the first sector.

05:56 Hulkenberg is also out on the soft.

05:57 Stunning lap this from Ricciardo, he should go quickest.

05:57 A minor off for Grosjean, who gathers it up and continues.

05:57 He does, very comfortably. It's a 1m30.597 - that's 1.4s faster! And the reason is...he's on the soft tyre!

05:57 Rosberg, not to be outdone, is going even quicker...

05:59 Great effort from Rosberg, 1m29.782s - 0.8s quicker than Ricciardo. Hulkenberg is third, four tenths behind the Red Bull.

05:59 We have a laptime for Romain Grosjean. He puts the Lotus 18th, 6.8s off the pace.

06:00 Gutierrez is out so it's just Maldonado of those we think expect to see who hasn't emerged.

06:01 Ricciardo improves after a cool-down lap, but it's a minor trim - to 1m30.538s.

06:01 Out come the Williams drivers and Kvyat to bank a soft-tyre run.

06:03 Lotus asks Grosjean to "switch off straightaway" when he gets back to the pits.

06:03 Massa only goes fourth on that run, 1.3s slower than Rosberg. That's surprising.

06:04 Hamilton hasn't switched to the soft yet, but was set for an improvement nonetheless before a slow final sector robbed him of a personal best.

06:04 Bottas goes third on a 1m30.920s. He's quicker than Massa but still 1.1s slower than Rosberg.

06:05 Vettel is through on the softs and it's the best non-Rosberg time so far, a 1m30.381s. So still 0.6s slower than the Mercedes.

06:06 Messy moment between Hamilton and Kvyat into Turn 13. It looks like Kvyat misunderstands which side the faster Mercedes is going to pass him on, and they nearly trip over each other.

06:07 More and more soft tyre runs now. Including Button - who is running Rosberg close on this lap, very close indeed.

It's a purple middle sector from the McLaren...

06:08 Button loses a huge chunk of time in the final sector. He goes from being neck-and-neck with Rosberg to 0.7s behind, and only third quickest.

06:09 Raikkonen's run on the soft Pirellis yields a 1m30.991s, which is only good enough for sixth and 1.2s off the pace.

06:12 Magnussen goes seventh fastest as Alonso gears up for a flying lap on the softs. He's 11th at present...

...and immediately goes quickest in the first sector.

06:13 Not a lightning middle sector from Alonso, and that costs him the quickest time. It's a strong end to the lap, just off Rosberg's final sector time, but he falls 0.350s short.

06:14 That's three different cars strongest in the three different sectors of the track then: Ferrari in the first, McLaren in the second and Mercedes in the third.

06:15 Quick glance at the speed traps shows the Merc-engined cars at the 316-7 km/h mark.

Ricciardo, as a Renault rep, hit 310.

06:15 Just three cars on track now - Rosberg, Raikkonen and Sutil.

06:16 Vergne says Toro Rosso's braking issues are getting a little bit better, as his crew admit it might be something that can only be resolved overnight.

06:17 BEN ANDERSON is watching trackside at the fast Turn 11/12 sweeper: "Daniel Ricciardo has been hustling the Red Bull here. It looks planted through the right-hander as does the Mercedes. The Williams look solid and the Sauber drivers seem to be a little more busy at the exit."

06:17 Out comes Hamilton for his first crack on the soft tyre.

06:19 It's not quite as good as Alonso's first sector, but that's right in the ballpark for Hamilton.

06:19 And again in sector two...

06:20 Hamilton goes...quickest! His 1m29.625s shades Rosberg by 0.157s.

06:21 With the top spot secured, Mercedes tells Hamilton to head for the pits as they'll now switch to long runs.

06:25 BEN ANDERSON: "Sergio Perez is able to keep the throttle nailed through the right-hander at Turn 12, while the Toro Rossos are having to lift. But you can hear the excessive wheelspin at the exit for the Force India driver. The Toro Rosso engine also sounds garbled as it transitions from the left to the right-hander."

06:25 Kvyat with a plea for Toro Rosso: "It's impossible to warm up the tyres like this, guys, I'm having to do too many things."

06:26 That's settled the order, so time for a recap of (almost) the first hour:

* Rosberg sets the early pace, but Hamilton shades his team-mate with Mercedes cars comfortably quickest on the softer tyre

* Alonso and Button set fastest sectors but fall short overall

* Merc-engined cars several km/h quicker on the front straight

* Caterham confirms Kobayashi will miss the session, no sign of Maldonado's Lotus

06:28 Quick glance at the times as teams settle into the longer runs, and on that last lap Rosberg was 0.18s faster than Vettel, despite being on slightly older softs.

06:29 Vergne and Grosjean improve their respective times in 11th and 18th.

06:30 Vettel's falling away from Rosberg's pace on the soft tyre, with Bottas lurking around the Red Bull's pace at present. Massa, on the medium tyre, is a second or so off his team-mate.

06:31 Ericsson watches on from the Caterham garage. No indication he's going to be leaving that in his F1 car any time soon.

Force India06:31 Here's some news we suspect will be popular - the FIA is to "address" the problem of F1 cars' ugly nose designs before the 2015 season:

FIA to address nose issue for 2015

06:32 Grosjean locks up into Turn 1, but unlike so many other people today, he hauls it around the corner without needing to cut across the grass.

06:34 Rosberg's fallen into the 1m34s now, his team-mate Hamilton just a fraction quicker - though his rubber is a few laps newer. Vettel's holding steady around the low 1m34s mark, with Button and Bottas not at all far from that sort of pace.

This is a better assertion of the race's potential pecking order, and it looks promising. You'd have to say the Mercs look strongest, but not in a "total domination" sense.

06:34 Ricciardo clips the grass on the exit of the fast Turn 11/12 again as he does a lovely drift out of the corner.

06:37 Big crowds are sat on the grass banks around the Albert Park street circuit. It's a scorcher of a day and the Aussies have flocked in droves to catch a first glimpse of new-look F1.

06:38 Vettel and Gutierrez just went wheel to wheel through Turns 1 and 2, with the Sauber ending up on the grass on the exit. Gutierrez didn't look over-keen to let the world champion pass, and equally Vettel wasn't in the mood to mess around.

06:38 Few cars hitting traffic which means a direct comparison is difficult.

Obviously, the fuel loads of each car is unknown, so on some level it's a futile endeavour regardless. But this could be crucial come Sunday - especially given the strictest of strict stances on the new fuel limits.

06:39 Rosberg is thinking in race mode and asks his Mercedes team how he's doing on the fuel target. The response is positive.

06:40 Bottas is now given a fuel target to aim for over his next four laps.

06:41 What we can ascertain from these numbers is anything in the 1m34s is solid and the 1m33s are very good indeed.

Hamilton and Rosberg (the latter now on mediums) continue to circulate comfortably in the 34s, as is Vettel. Button and Bottas have long-held a similar pace, with Ricciardo, Magnussen and Massa a bit off their team-mates.

It would be brave to put all your eggs in one basket based on this, but if that's how you feel then remember the Castrol GP Predictor is back.

06:42 Rosberg is immediately back into 1m33s on the medium tyre and Hamilton also dips back into that bracket. We make that 11 laps for Hamilton on the softs.

06:44 Raikkonen was just sussing out how close he could get to the wall on the backstraight before sweeping in for Turn 11. Very, it turns out.

06:45 Speaking of Ferrari, what of its pace at the moment? Alonso's looking OK, a regular in the mid-1m34s at the moment. That's as fast as we're seeing right now. Raikkonen's not quite up to his team-mate at present.

06:48 In terms of laps, Bottas is leading the way on 33 with Vettel one behind - a far cry from the reliability woes of Jerez and Bahrain.

The Mercs look good - 29 and 30 laps respectively for Hamilton and Rosberg. On the other end of the scale, no laps for Maldonado, one for Ericsson and 11 for Grosjean.

You fear for Caterham this weekend on this basis.

06:48 Perez ploughs through the gravel at Turn 8 after flicking the Force India out of line when he touched the grass.

06:52 Rosberg pits, as does Button. The majority of the drivers remain on track though.

06:53 Hamilton pits for a practice stop, and smoke pours from the front brakes. He rejoins.

06:55 Vettel and Bottas remain almost inseparable time-wise. Constantly running in the mid-to-high 1m34s. The former remains on the soft while the latter is on mediums.

Button and Ricciardo are also on mediums, in case we hadn't mentioned.

06:55 Another Force India in the gravel, and this time it's stuck. Hulkenberg spins off at Turn 8.

06:56 And Grosjean has spun the Lotus into the gravel as well!

06:56 Both drivers' sessions are over, the cars are deeply stuck. They were two separate, but simultaneous, incidents at different parts of the track.

06:57 Grosjean's is the more dramatic shunt - the Lotus snaps sideways as he brakes at the kink into Turn 6, and he smacks the wall with the left rear wheel and demolishes a braking marker on his way to the gravel.

06:57 That's as good a time to disrupt FP2 as any. No desire for teams to bank a late flier - though it does hinder their data-gathering to some degree if drivers are having to back off considerably.

06:58 Hulkenberg's Force India is craned away very efficiently.

06:59 We are back to green after Grosjean's Lotus is dealt with.

07:00 End of the session. That's it for Friday's running in Melbourne.

07:03 Australian Grand Prix FP2 results:
1 Hamilton (Mercedes) 1m29.625s
2 Rosberg (Mercedes) +0.157s
3 Alonso (Ferrari) +0.507s
4 Vettel (Red Bull) +0.756s
5 Button (McLaren) +0.885s
6 Ricciardo (Red Bull) +0.913s
7 Raikkonen (Ferrari) +1.273s
8 Bottas (Williams) +1.295s
9 Magnussen (McLaren) +1.406s
10 Hulkenberg (Force India) +1.429s

07:06 Very, very productive session for a lot of teams. Mercedes is on top, but Ferrari, McLaren, Williams and (who doubted them?) Red Bull are there or thereabouts.

07:07 Plenty of laps logged, as you'd expect given the emphasis on longer runs. But if you'd said a couple of weeks ago that Vettel would rack up the most (41) on Friday afternoon, you might have been laughed at.

07:17 There's plenty more to come on AUTOSPORT today, including EDD STRAW and GARY ANDERSON's Friday form guide analysis.

AUTOSPORT Live will keep running for another few hours to bring you all the news, insight and reaction from the paddock.

07:20 We'll also have another exclusive Lewis Hamilton video interview in 40 minutes' time, this time with today's Melbourne pacesetter answering questions from fans.

07:23 Daniel Ricciardo is absolutely beaming in the paddock tonight. We know he naturally smiles a lot, but after Red Bull's tough winter, the grin had been a little less evident.

We'll have the full story of Red Bull's day on AUTOSPORT shortly.

07:27 It's not just American motorsport stars being unimpressed by the sound of F1 2014 - Ferrari's protege Raffaele Marciello has just tweeted the following evocative summary:

"F1 v12 engine VROOOOM
"F1 v10 engine VROOOM
"F10 v8 engine VROOM..
"Now... Vrom.
"Future ... Zzzzzz.."

You won't say that when Ferrari offers you an F1 race seat though Raffaele, surely...?

The European Formula 3 champion will get plenty of chance to hear F1 engines in person this year as he's stepping up to GP2.

07:31 After a day that featured just three laps on track between its two cars, Caterham says:

"Might be quite a short debrief tonight....."

...but a very long night for the mechanics, we imagine.

07:35 Red Bull team boss Christian Horner reckons the champion squad's campaign effectively starts here, with an encouraging practice day making up for some of that testing misery.

"It's been our first proper test day of the season really. It was refreshing for both drivers to get plenty of laps in and to really get the first feel for the car."

07:39 But Ferrari's Stefano Domenicali suggests some teams "were hiding" today and the pecking order might look different again tomorrow.

07:39 JONATHAN NOBLE has just returned from talking to a 'relieved' pair of Red Bull drivers. More from them shortly.

07:41 Mercedes chief Toto Wolff's verdict on his team's one-two this afternoon: "If you look after free practice two, it's quite satisfying..."

Cover07:47 Wolff adds that some discussions have gone on with Hamilton and Rosberg about how to handle intra-team fights just in case the Mercedes duo end up in a head to head for the win or title. He hopes they avoid a "surprise" like Malaysia last year.

AUTOSPORT heard from both Hamilton and Rosberg ahead of the season-opener, and you can read an in-depth interview with them both in this week's magazine, as they tackle topics like their contrasting reputations. Read it online here.

07:49 Meanwhile in the team bosses' press conference, Eric Boullier has been doing an intriguing job of describing what new McLaren sponsor ASOS is. AUTOSPORT believes his line included the phrase "fashion stuff".

07:51 Hamilton is a bit peeved that the Melbourne organisers didn't manage to get his Mercedes back to the garage during practice one after its early sensor problem. BEN ANDERSON has just returned from speaking to the Mercedes drivers, more news to follow on the site soon.

08:06 Here's the full story of that positive vibe flowing out of Red Bull this morning:

Vettel: Red Bull's start a 'big relief'

08:17 It's time for part two of Lewis Hamilton's exclusive video interview for The Racer's Edge with F1 Racing and AUTOSPORT.

This time the questions come from fans, giving Hamilton chance to reveal why he thinks Eau Rouge will become a challenge again this year, and what he rates as his best ever overtaking move (clue: it happened at Buckmore Park).

08:22 Nico Rosberg was heard on the radio debating fuel economy tactics with his Mercedes crew during practice.

After the first three hours of running, he reckons the fuel limit situation will be right on the edge:

"This is one of the worst tracks for that. I can see where I should be [on fuel mileage] and I can see what I'm doing and it's really, really difficult.

"So that's going to be a big challenge for Sunday.

"And that's why it's going to be completely different from Saturday to Sunday. Saturday qualifying is a total different story to Sunday's race."

08:29 It's not been a great start to 2014 for Sauber today.

Both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez had gearbox and ERS problems during the two practice sessions, leaving them firmly in the midfield.

The team managed to get some reasonable mileage in practice two, but it's clear there's a long way to go.

"We are definitely missing a lot of speed and our pace is not where we want it to be," said Gutierrez.

08:31 But it's been an even worse one for Caterham. Marcus Ericsson had an electrical issue on his car's engine on his first lap in the morning, and a hydraulics problem right at the start of practice two.

"Fixing anything like this under the engine cover takes a lot longer than it used to with the old engines, so that was the end of the session for me and more work for the boys," he said.

Team-mate Kamui Kobayashi had a fuel system leak - which caused a small fire under the engine cover - on his installation lap in practice one, and with a power unit/engine change required, that was it for his day.

08:34 BEN ANDERSON has just returned from Caterham, he'll have more details about the depth of the team's plight on AUTOSPORT shortly.

Lewis Hamilton08:36 Lewis Hamilton's day started with a technical problem, but ended with the fastest time.

He thinks Mercedes has already overcome losing half today's available track time. Full story:

Hamilton recovers from 'back foot'

08:42 Hamilton is confident that Mercedes has managed a permanent fix for the sensor issue that cost him that morning of running.

"That, I think, is a one-off," he said.

"We were the only ones to stop but I think over the season you'll see hiccups like that.

"But that issue will not be an issue for us again."

08:57 Williams was third and fourth in practice one, but only eighth and 12th in practice two.

Felipe Massa, the slower of the two Martini-coloured cars each time, remains relaxed and confident:

"The focus was not just going on the fastest lap; also the focus was on trying to understand the best solution for the car – trying to understand everything around the set-up and what will be the direction for tomorrow," he said.

"That was our focus today and there’s a lot more to come tomorrow."

Nico Hulkenberg09:00 Nico Hulkenberg ended his practice day backwards and in the gravel. He shrugged the incident off and put it down to poor visibility.

"I put a wheel on the grass under braking, but the conditions were difficult because the sun was so low in the sky," he said.

09:06 Definitely first blood to Marussia in the back-of-the-grid battle today. It managed 68 laps compared to Caterham's three, although most of those had to be in practice two as software issues disrupted the morning.

09:09 For a full set of drivers' quotes from the weekend, and a lot more, this is the place to go:

FORIX driver data page for the Australian GP

Quotes from across the whole weekend will be added to that page as the event progresses, and if you can click on each driver's name to get full data from their weekend - including complete race laptimes and gap chart after the grand prix on Sunday.

09:27 Positive noises from Ferrari today. Fernando Alonso was quickest in the morning and third behind the Mercedes in the afternoon.

"Even if there was an element of nervousness because of the complexity introduced by the new technical regulations, everything went well," he said.

"The team did a super job and we had no problems.

"It's impossible to have a clear idea of how competitive we are, because as usual, Friday results don't mean much.

"To know more, we must wait until everyone is running in the same trim."

Romain Grosjean crash09:38 This cloud of dust is Romain Grosjean's Lotus landing in the gravel after bouncing off the barriers at the end of afternoon practice today.

That was the last thing the team needed after a very troubled day. More information on the causes of Lotus's dramas on AUTOSPORT shortly.

09:43 Got news coming up about Jenson Button's verdict from the day too - he may have been second to Alonso in the morning, but he's not getting his hopes up.

09:48 Grosjean says his shunt was caused by a suspension failure rather than a driver error.

He had plenty to say about the scale of Lotus's problems and what it means for the Melbourne weekend - more of which will appear in our news section.

09:50 Back in the dark days of Red Bull's Bahrain test, Sebastian Vettel said that a major factor in the struggle was a shortage of parts, with the team a long way from Milton Keynes and low on bits that hadn't already been broken once.

He predicted that purely restocking on spares would make a big difference to the champion squad, and seems to have been proved right today.

"The biggest difference is that we got new parts, not necessarily performance parts, but new parts," Vettel said.

"We didn't have the spares in testing and we ended up with a fix here and there, so that is the biggest difference."

10:10 Caterham had a dire time of today's two practice sessions, with Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson completing just three laps between them during the 180 minutes.

Both drivers are adamant however that they will be able to run in the third and final session, despite being hit by problems that did not occur during testing.

Caterham adamant it will run in P3

10:18 Meanwhile, Jenson Button has offered an ominous insight into how he and McLaren are reading the early form book.

The Briton insists second and fifth in practice flatters McLaren, and is convinced Mercedes is effectively in a league of its own, able to lap around one second faster than any of its rivals.

Mercedes one second clear of rivals - Button

10:22 And on that portentous note, we're going to wrap up our live coverage from the first day of the 2014 Formula 1 season.

Thanks for joining us. We'll be back tomorrow to cover the third and final practice and, from 0600 GMT, the first qualifying session of the year.

Where's your money? Can anyone disrupt Mercedes? Is the Red Bull comeback well and truly on?

Tomorrow, the answers will begin to be revealed. Join us then.

Jenson Button F1 McLaren 2014

Clear skies High Temp: 25°C / 77°F
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Friday 14 Mar Start GMT
 Friday - Practice 01:00
Saturday 15 Mar
 Saturday - Qualifying 02:30
Sunday 16 Mar
 Sunday - Australian Grand Prix 04:30