It’s a brave new world of moveable rear-wings, Pirelli tyres, KERS and, err. Pastor Maldonado; we’ve been told that the Red Bull is unbeatable, that the McLaren is a dog and that the Hispania is made almost entirely from old park benches; they say the races will be chaotic affairs with fifty pitstops per-driver and more overtaking than your average NASCAR event. But until today it’s all be guesswork.

But now we need guess no more – we can start to put the pieces together as the new season bursts in to life in Australia – F1 2011 is go!

The season is yet to begin for three drivers, with Jaime Alguersuari, Paul di Resta and Jarno Trulli all sitting out the session. They were replaced by reserve drivers Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hulkenberg and Karun Chandhok in the Toro Rosso, Force India and Lotus cars respectively.

Chandhok’s start to life as a Lotus driver got off to the worst possible start as he lost the back end and snapped in to the wall just a few corners in to his first lap. It will undoubtedly prove costly to Lotus’ preparations for the opening race.

All of the teams completed early installation laps save for HRT, whose new F111 still wasn’t ready as practice kicked off. Neither of the Spanish sqauds cars would run during the 90 minutes of practice and doubts remains as to whether they’ll make Sunday’s race.

After half an hour’s running Ferrari‘s Felipe Massa set the first timed lap of the session before quickly dropping his car in to the gravel. Williams rookie Pastor Maldonado soon followed him across the line as the teams began to send their drivers out in numbers. Red Bull had soon set the pace, with first Mark Webber and then world champion Sebastian Vettel topping the timesheets.

Fernando Alonso split the Red Bulls with quarter of an hour remaining whilst Nico Rosberg slotted in to third. Webber than went P1 with three minutes left on the clock only to be immediately trumped by Vettel. A late effort from the Aussie then saw him retake top spot, recording a time that Vettel could not beat. The inter-team battle at Red Bull is already very much underway.

Alonso ended the session third ahead of Rosberg with Rubens Barrichello a very impressive fifth. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were sixth and seventh respectively, both getting strong running in throughout the session. Their car may not be right on the pace but they completed plenty of laps in FP1. Michael Schumacher was eighth with Kamui Kobayashi ninth and Vitaly Petrov tenth.

Timesheet for Practice 1

1Mark WebberRed Bull1'26.83120
2Sebastian VettelRed Bull1'27.1580.32719
3Fernando AlonsoFerrari1'27.7490.91820
4Nico RosbergMercedes1'28.1521.32116
6Jenson ButtonMcLaren1'28.4401.60929
7Lewis HamiltonMcLaren1'28.4831.65226
9Kamui KobayashiSauber1'28.7251.89413
10Vitaly PetrovRenault1'28.7651.93415
11Felipe MassaFerrari1'28.8422.01120
12Nick HeidfeldRenault1'28.9282.09714
13Adrian SutilForce India1'29.3142.48319
14Sebastien BuemiToro Rosso1'29.3282.49721
15Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1'29.4032.57224
16Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso1'29.4682.63723
17Sergio PerezSauber1'29.6432.81218
18Nico HulkenbergForce India1'31.0024.17120
21Timo GlockVirgin1'35.2898.45815
22Karun ChandhokLotus--1