By Daniel Wilson.
Nico Rosberg was the man to beat in Friday practice as he narrowly defeated defending champion Lewis Hamilton ahead of the season opening Australian Grand Prix.
The German set a time of 1:27.697 in the afternoon session, a tenth quicker that his teammate as Mercedes were in a league of their own.
The Silver Arrows were around a second quicker than their nearest rivals, who looked to be Ferrari, as Sebastian Vettel beat Kimi Raikkonen in his first outing for the team since moving from Red Bull last year.
Behind them, as predicted, it seemed to be a close battle between Red Bull and Williams.
But the teams hit trouble in the afternoon as Felipe Massa and Daniel Ricciardo missed the entire session with reliability issues.
However, many of the talking points were concerning action off track as the legal drama surrounding Giedo van der Garde’s place at Sauber prevented them running in first practice.
Lawyers in Melbourne have said Sauber should let the Dutch driver take part in the team’s running after he allegedly paid them £8m last year to secure a drive for 2015, and the team had been threatened with bailiffs for a time on Friday.
However, a problem with issuing the driver’s superlicence meant he will not get into the car this weekend, leaving racing duties to Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.
The row will rumble on though as their team principal Monisha Kaltenborn was warned she could face jail for being in contempt of court if Van Der Garde is not allowed to drive.
Meanwhile, problems for the renamed Manor Marussia team increased as endless issues with their car prevented any running for Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi on Friday.
The team’s financial uncertainty over the winter means they will race with a modified version of their 2014 car in the first few races.
McLaren’s woes continued too as Kevin Magnussen crashed in second practice while a loss of power ended Jenson Button’s day early.
In the midfield, Lotus, Force India and Toro Rosso had more positive running and looked to make improvements on recent troubles.
Second Practice Results:
1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:27.697
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27.797
3. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1:28.412
4. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 1:28.842
5. Valtteri Bottas (Williams) 1:29.265
6. Daniil Kvyat (Red Bull) 1:30.016
7. Carlos Sainz-Jr (Toro Rosso) 1:30.071
8. Pastor Maldonado (Lotus) 1:30.104
9. Romain Grosjean (Lotus) 1:30.205
10. Nico Hulkenberg (Force India) 1:30.473
11. Felipe Nasr (Sauber) 1:30.755
12. Sergio Perez (Force India) 1:30.980
13. Jenson Button (McLaren) 1:31.387
14. Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) 1:31.395
15. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) 1:32.303
16. Kevin Magnussen (McLaren) 1:33.289
17. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) No Time
18. Felipe Massa (Williams ) No Time
19. Will Stevens (Manor) No Time
20. Roberto Merhi (Manor) No Time
What do you make of the Sauber saga?
Are Ferrari best of the rest?
Predictions for Sunday?
Leave your thoughts and comments below!