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Home > Sports > Formula One > Reuters > Report

Ferrari make quick start to F1 season

Alan Baldwin | March 16, 2007 11:22 IST

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Ferrari's Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen made a flying start to the Formula One season on Friday with the fastest times in free practice for the Australian Grand Prix.

Brazilian Massa, winner of last year's season-ender in Sao Paulo, lapped the Albert Park circuit in 1:27.353 with Raikkonen -- stepping into the shoes of retired seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher -- behind him in 1:27.750.

British rookie Lewis Hamilton enjoyed an excellent first day of his grand prix career with the third fastest time in the 90- minute afternoon session after setting the fourth best on a damp track in the morning.

His McLaren team mate and double world champion Fernando Alonso was fastest before lunch but ended the day only seventh quickest.

The practice times were in line with pre-season expectations, confirming that Ferrari and McLaren would be the teams to beat with much improved BMW Sauber also knocking on the door along with Renault.

Spaniard Alonso, champion for the past two seasons with Renault and winner last year in Melbourne, has switched to Mercedes-powered McLaren in search of that team's first win since 2005.

The afternoon session was halted for 15 minutes after Honda's Brazilian Rubens Barrichello skidded and spun into the tyre wall without major damage.

Renault rookie Heikki Kovalainen, stepping into Alonso's shoes, had pulled over before that. Worryingly for the champions, his team mate Giancarlo Fisichella also halted on the track in the closing seconds after setting the fourth best time.

Both Barrichello and Honda team mate Jenson Button set slower lap times than Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson in the Honda-backed Super Aguris.

Briton Davidson was 11th and Japan's Sato 13th in the afternoon while Button and Barrichello were 14th and 15th respectively.

Free practice has changed this season, with the two-race engine regulations in force only from Saturday morning.

This allows teams to switch their cars' engines without penalty for the Friday and complete far more laps than in the past, giving the crowd more for their money by ensuring more drivers are on track.

However, teams are only allowed to use two cars, rather than the three of last year, in either of Friday's two expanded sessions.

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Formula One: The Complete Coverage