F1: Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull make ominous start to new season

The triple world champion was fastest during practice in Melbourne

Triple world champion Sebastian Vettel proved Red Bull seemingly have what it takes to make it four Formula One titles in a row.

Throughout the 12 days of testing in Jerez and Barcelona, not once did Vettel top the timesheet, raising questions as to whether the team were sandbagging or, as suggested by some, potentially facing difficulties.

But come the start of the season proper with first practice today for the opening race of the campaign in Australia on Sunday, there were no prizes for guessing who was out in front.

The 25-year-old German, only the third driver to win three successive championships after legends Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher, posted a time of one minute 27.211secs around Melbourne's Albert Park and under clear blue skies.

In the grand scheme of things these are early days and no-one will have shown their full hand just yet.

But as indicators go, Vettel and Red Bull will undoubtedly be in the mix come qualifying tomorrow and for the race victory on Sunday.

Behind Vettel were the Ferrari pairing of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in a car light years removed from the one that so abysmally started last year's campaign.

Massa finished 0.078s adrift of Vettel, with Alonso, who has twice in the last three years agonisingly come runner-up, 0.336s off the pace.

As for Mercedes and their new boy in Lewis Hamilton, as true first impressions go the Brackley-based marque and the Briton fared well.

Like Red Bull, doubts were raised about their pace as the car appeared quick in testing, with some suggesting they were showboating.

Hamilton responded by finishing just five thousandths of a second behind Alonso, with team-mate Nico Rosberg down in seventh, 0.802s adrift.

Sandwiched in between were Mark Webber in his Red Bull and on home soil, with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen sixth quickest as the Enstone team seek to prove last season was no flash in the pan when the Finn was third overall.

McLaren, meanwhile, for now appear to have plenty in the tank, with Jenson Button, winner here three times in the last four years, and Sergio Perez ninth and 11th quickest.

Both the Briton and the Mexican, though, were over a second adrift in a bunch led by Force India's Adrian Sutil on his return to the sport after a year on the sidelines.

Sutil was an excellent eighth overall, finishing five places and nearly half a second faster than team-mate Paul Di Resta who spun into the gravel late on, but with the Scot able to power his way back on track.

Lotus' Romain Grosjean separated the McLaren duo, with Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg also ahead of Di Resta in 12th.

Further down the field were Williams' duo Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas, one of five rookies on the grid this year, with both over two seconds back.

Of the other new boys Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez was 16th, followed by Marussia pairing Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton in 19th and 20th, split by just under a second, whilst Caterham's Giedo van der Garde brought up the rear, over five seconds down.

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?