MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso set the fastest time in Friday’s opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix, while pre-race favorite Lewis Hamilton was one of several drivers to strike trouble as entire field struggled to master their all-new engines and radically redesigned cars ahead of the Formula One season opener.
Hamilton was unable to complete a single lap after his Mercedes engine automatically shut down due to an oil pressure alarm on his first tour of the Albert Park circuit. With repairs to the complex V6 turbo hybrid engines taking much longer than last year’s powertrains, Hamilton was unable to emerge in the next 90 minutes.
McLaren’s Jenson Button was second fastest, ahead of the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.
World champion Sebastian Vettel had limited running in his Red Bull as it plays catch-up after a troubled preseason testing, going out for only 10 laps, although there was some encouragement for the team as Daniel Ricciardo got through 26 laps and was fifth fastest, two places ahead of the four-time world champ.
Lotus’ Romain Grosjean did not emerge from the garage at all, and his teammate Pastor Maldonado only came out in the final 15 minutes and promptly spun off. Lotus was among the Renault-powered cars that were severely restricted in their preseason testing and are a long way behind schedule in developing their cars for Melbourne.
The Caterham cars likewise did not complete a single lap, nor did the Marussia of Jules Bianchi, while his teammate Max Chilton made only a fleeting and off-pace appearance.
McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen was eighth fastest in his maiden F1 appearance, while Kimi Raikkonen was ninth in his first season back at Ferrari and Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne completed the top ten.