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Practice fails to deliver expected raft of reliability problems

Mar 14, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT

Australian F1 Grand Prix - Practice Getty Images

Late last night, we reported on FIA race director Charlie Whiting’s contingency plan in the unlikely event of all 22 cars retiring from this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, such were the concerns raised earlier this week.

Following a tenuous winter testing period in which every team suffered some kind of reliability problem, and with the known issues for Renault-powered teams, many were expecting the opening salvo of practice sessions at Albert Park to be all about who managed to complete any meaningful running, with a bloodbath of stricken drivers being forced to return to the pits via unconventional means.

But no. Doomsday did not strike on Friday in Melbourne.

However, it wasn’t without a concerning start. Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came to a halt after just five minutes of the opening session on Friday, but the team soon revealed that this was due to a problem with the W05’s oil pressure sensor. The Briton responded by finishing as the fastest of all in FP2, underlining Mercedes’ title favorite credentials.

As the day wore on, some of the teams did indeed encounter problems. Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson both failed to post a time on Friday, meaning that Caterham have a lot of work to do this evening and across the rest of the weekend. Lotus also had a nightmarish day as Pastor Maldonado failed to post a time, losing power during FP1 and being left with a smoking cockpit, whilst Romain Grosjean also struggled to work with the E22. The Frenchman ended the day in the gravel after spinning off at turn three with a few minutes to go in FP2.

Another driver that suffered a minor issue in FP2 was Nico Hulkenberg. The German driver spun out at the same time as Grosjean, albeit at a different corner, and this was purely down to driver error as he put a wheel on the grass under braking at turn nine.

Red Bull’s day got off to a difficult start as the team had to rebuild Sebastian Vettel’s RB10 throughout FP1. However, he managed to get out midway through the session and comfortably finished inside the top ten, before going on to finish FP2 in fourth place. Given the problems that the team had over the winter, it was a great day for the world champions.

Finally, Ferrari also had one stoppage on Kimi Raikkonen’s car, but this was a result of the Finn failing to find first gear upon exiting the pits. The F14 T was wheeled back to the Ferrari garage, reset and sent on its way again.

All in all, it was a good day of practice in Melbourne, and a far cry from the doomsday predictions that many were making heading into this race weekend. However, with the rest of the weekend still to come, it’s best to remain quietly confident that we will enjoy a race with a large running field on Sunday instead of making any outright assumptions.

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