Albert Park, Melbourne. It’s been the scene of some fantastic season-opening races in the past, but for reasons beyond our control it’s race 2 in 2010. Still, after the procession that was Bahrain this feels like the first race of the season- this is where things are going to get exciting. We hope.

And so it begins with practice 1. Of course first practice is never the best indicator of how the weekend will pan out, and it doesn’t tell us whether we’ll see a better race on Sunday than we did two weeks ago. But nevertheless F1 cars on track is always worth giving our full attention to, so here’s Badgers rundown of practice 1 from Albert Park.

Renault – Robert Kubica raised some eyebrows by taking the fastest time in practice 1. He reeled off several fastest laps late in the session to top the timesheets. Running on low fuel? Probably, but impressive none the less from the Pole. He looks well placed to fight for the ‘best of the rest’ title behind the quickest 8 cars. Teammate Vitaly Petrov ended up 9th, enjoying a little spin on the way.

Mercedes – The Mercedes team were the source of an interesting story in Bahrain, where Nico Rosberg beat Michael Schumacher convincingly over the course of the weekend. Can ‘Blondie’ defeat the old master again in Melbourne?

It’s looking good; he was 2nd quickest, with Schuamcher back in 12th. However Michael got all the attention. He kept his foot down and set a very fast lap during a  red flag caused by an errant Kamui Kobayashi front wing. Red Bull boss Christian Horner wasn’t best pleased, telling reporters:  “I think he should get a 10 place grid penalty for that, maybe for the next two grand prix”. We’ll have to wait and see how that one pans out.

Mclaren – Jenson Button had a disappointing McLaren debut in Bahrain- 7th just aIn’t good enough for these world champion types- and will be looking for a much stronger showing here in Australia. He’s off to the a good start, setting the 3rd fastest time today. Lewis Hamilton was 7th fastest, so good stuff from McLaren team- can they maintain their pace in to qualifying?

Ferrari – Bahrain winner Fernando Alonso said this week that Australia always produces ‘”very ‘special’ races“. We hope you’re right, Fernando. The Spaniard kicked off his weekend with the 6th fastest time of P1, 2 places behind Felipe Massa.

Red Bull – You’ve spoken, and you reckon Sebastien Vettel will be on pole come Saturday afternoon. The German has a clear lead in the Fantasy Grand Prix predictions table for pole, and got the ball rolling on making that a reality with 5th in P1. Teammate Webber was 14th, though the Aussie wasn’t going for banzai laps. Expect much more in qualifying.

Vettel's your favourite for pole, but can he deliver? Credit: Alex Comerford

Toro Rosso & Williams – In the middle Bumei did a good job, finishing 8th quickest, whilst fellow Toro Rosso man Jaime Alguersuari was 13th. Williams had a low-key day, with Rubens Barichello 16th and Nico Hulkenberg 17th.

Force India – Team owner Vijay Mallya is a doctor. This reporter wasn’t aware of that fact until today, but has now learned that Vijay- as well as being filthy rich, owning an F1 team and daring to wear an earring despite being in his mid-fifties- has a doctorate in business administration. So don’t ask him to do any emergency surgery, but do give him a shout if you’re in need of a very good filing system.

Anyway, who’s this in the Force India? It’s not crash-prone, piano playing Adrian Sutil, but Italian-descended, full-blooded Scotsman Paul di Resta. The man from West Lothian is Force India’s third driver and is taking part in Friday practice 1 throughout the season, primarily in an attempt to keep Sutil and Tonio Liuzzi on their toes.

These Friday sessions should show people what I’m made of and what I can achieve on the track“, he said yesterday, before getting a scare off a shark at the beach. Today he posted the 11th best lap, 1 place behind Liuzzi.. A solid day for the team.

Credit - Autosport

Sauber – Kamui Kobayshi maintained his reputation as a bit of a wild man, wrecking his front wing after a collision with a cone at turn 11, bringing out a red flag. He later suffered a another off, though this one wasn’t his fault. His front wing failed approaching turn 3, and he was lucky not to have a nasty accident. Teammate de la Rosa stopped on track in the final quarter of an hour of the session, ending a miserable afternoon for the team in which the Spaniard was 15th quickest and Kobayashi 18th.

The New Teams – For the three new teams- Lotus, Virgin Racing and HRT- it was all about getting as much track time in as possible. This was especially true of HRT, who covered about as much distance in Bahrain as Martin Brundle did during his gridwalk. They were slow but got a good amount of running, and will consider P1 a success

Lotus worked through some hydraulic issues on Jarno Trulli’s car and looked a bit iffy on track. Heikki Kovalainen stopped on track as the session ended, but no major worries for the Norfolk boys. They were 19th and 20th quickest.

But there’s a major problem brewing at Virgin Racing. It would seem that rumours from a few weeks ago that the team’s fuel tank isn’t big enough for them to finish the race appear to be true. They’ll need to make big changes to the car, and won’t be able to run with the new tank before the Spanish GP in may. Until then they’ll have to run at reduced significantly  performance or run out of juice before the end of the race. In practice Timo Glock was last, getting little track time, and Lucas di Grassi 21st, but that doesn’t really mean a whole lot with their tank issues in mind. Badger will have more on this as it unfolds.

Credit: Virgin Racing

Two more little stories from practice one to round-up. There are still arguments rumbling on about McLaren’s controversial aero innovation, with Williams in particular unhappy about it. And Michael Schumacher’s been spending a lot of time at Ferrari’s hospitality centre. Seems Michael’s missing the glorious pasta the Scuderia’s chefs are famed for knocking up.

What does every one think of all this then? Why not head over to the Australian Grand Prix forum at the Sett– Badger’s very new and very exciting F1 fan social network. And don’t waste all the very useful knowledge Badger has shared with you! Use it to get your Fantasy Grand Prix team in tip-top shape.

So that’s practice 1 done, but be sure to keep your eyes tuned to Badger. Full coverage of practice 2- and the whole weekend’s action in Australia- will be on here as soon as it happens.