Formula 1

Nico Rosberg leads first Australian practice as Mercedes dominate

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Nico Rosberg got his 2015 season off to the ideal start setting the fastest time in the first practice session at the Australian Grand Prix.

The German posted a 1:29.557 on just his second timed lap in the opening 90-minutes of the new F1 season as Mercedes quickly established their place at the top of the timings.

Team-mate and world champion Lewis Hamilton was a little slower to up his pace but got to within three hundredths of Rosberg's time at the halfway point resulting in both Silver Arrows holding over a second advantage to Valtteri Bottas' Williams in third.

Manor, Sauber stuck in the garage

As Mercedes' dominance continued the problems continued at the back of the grid as two teams failed to run at all in the lunchtime session at Albert Park.

Manor, who are still in the very early stages of their 2015 project, are believed to be missing key engine software as well as other issues simply getting the updated 2014 Marussia to run and their participation at any stage of the weekend is as it stands uncertain.

But perhaps more damaging issues long-term continue to hit Sauber as the fallout from Giedo van der Garde's successful court case for a drive in 2015 meant neither Marcus Ericsson nor Felipe Nasr were able to leave the garage.

The Swiss team lost an appeal over the verdict issued on Wednesday and indeed the courts have warned that they have the power to seize Sauber's equipment should they fail to comply, however, van der Garde himself was unable to get behind the wheel as he doesn't have the necessary superlicence all drivers must have and it appears his potential employers are less than willing to help him in his cause.

Toro Rosso shine

In what was a subdued session, as dusty track conditions meant little meaningful running was possible, Toro Rosso did use the time to give their two rookie drivers some important track time at what is a new circuit for both.

Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. were the only men to surpass 30 laps (31 and 32 respectively) and the extra running meant they were higher up the standings than expected with Sainz claiming fourth and Verstappen sixth.

Indeed both junior Red Bull drivers led their 'senior' counterparts as Red Bull eased into the new season.

Daniel Ricciardo had a minor spin and only completed nine laps en route to 10th place as his new partner Daniil Kvyat managed double the number of laps but was just behind the local hero in 11th.

Rest of the top 10

In between the two Toro Rosso drivers, Sebastian Vettel took over the position his predecessor Fernando Alonso rather made his own during the four years the Spaniard spent at Ferrari with the German ending fifth with his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen eighth.

Felipe Massa also ensured Williams had both cars in the top 10 in seventh and Pastor Maldonado was the other driver in what would be points-paying positions on Sunday as he claimed ninth for Lotus.

Problems at McLaren

There was little hope that McLaren could pull off a Red Bull-esque recovery from a poor pre-season as more Honda engine problems limited the team to just 13 laps combined.

With the issues lower down the grid Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were 14th and 15th respectively, as a floor problem for Romain Grosjean kept the Frenchman sidelined too, but while its very early in the race weekend, it seems the challenge of simply making the finish on Sunday is all the Woking team can hope for.

At the front, however, it remains all about Hamilton, Rosberg and Mercedes and we'll gain a little more insight into just how the grid stands heading into the first race of the season as race preparations and a short qualifying simulation will be the order of the day in the second session a little later.

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Formula 1

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