Belfast Telegraph

Jenson Button lacks the pace of Lewis Hamilton

By Ian Parkes

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button face the prospect of being at opposite ends of the grid for tomorrow's Australian Grand Prix given the differing fortunes of the two British Formula One stars at the start of the new season.

Melbourne's Albert Park was the scene of arguably one of the most unusual opening days in the sport's history, in particular with a considerable amount of focus on a Sauber team mired in an ongoing legal battle with last year's reserve driver Giedo van der Garde.

The situation at one stage resulted in bailiffs from the Supreme Court of Victoria being on stand-by outside the circuit ready to impound Sauber's cars and trackside equipment in case the team were found to be in contempt.

There was also the prospect of the arrest of team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, who later declined to address the legal case given it is due to continue today, and who made clear she had no intention of resigning.

Van der Garde even bizarrely appeared in the overalls of Marcus Ericsson, one of Sauber's two listed drivers for this year ahead of first practice, in the belief he would be in the car.

In the end, for legal reasons, neither Van der Garde, Ericsson nor Felipe Nasr took part in FP1, with the latter duo eventually able to take to the track for FP2.

Then there was Manor, who have moved heaven and earth to make it to Australia after emerging from administration three weeks ago, but due to technical issues neither young Briton Will Stevens nor Spanish team-mate Roberto Merhi made it out of the garage.

At the head of affairs, and unsurprisingly so, were Mercedes duo Nico Rosberg and reigning champion Hamilton, separated by exactly a tenth of a second come the end of the two 90-minute sessions.

Hamilton said: "We have a great car, great speed, but still the car is not perfect, so that is something we need to work on. It's obviously going to be very close (between himself and Rosberg), and I still have a lot of work to do with balance.

"I'm also not 100 per cent comfy with the car, but that's to be expected because it's the first day."

Meanwhile, Button finished second practice 3.7secs adrift of Rosberg and staring at the possibility of being on the back row should Manor fail to take part.

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