|© AP Photo/John Donegan
A strong overall performance, tempered by two late technical setbacks, in Friday's Australian Grand Prix practice sessions left Mercedes bullish about its chances in this weekend's Formula 1 season opener.
Mercedes' recruit Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg were the drivers pushing pacesetters Red Bull the hardest, only for trouble to strike in the closing minutes of the second session.
Hamilton had a problem with the floor of his car which cause understeer and sent him into a tyre wall at turn 6, soon followed by a gearbox failure in Rosberg's car which caused him to pull off the track.
Rosberg was third in second practice times, four tenths of a second behind Sebastian Vettel, while Hamilton was seventh.
"We had a very good day today until the last five minutes of the second session." team principal Ross Brawn said.
"Overall it was a very reasonable first day and we were able to get a good picture of the tyres and the balance of the car."
Brawn said Rosberg's gearbox problem had been ongoing for much of the session, but they elected to keep him out on track to collect as much data as possible as the team quickly tries to understand its new car.
He said Hamilton damaged the floor in an earlier run and this caused the understeer. While there were no immediate replays of the incident, the markings on the gravel ahead of the tyre wall showed the car went straight on and did not turn at all while braking before making only light contact with the wall.
"Overall it was a good day, if perhaps not the smoothest," Hamilton said. "I'm happy with where we are and to see Nico in third place on the timesheets shows that we're pretty competitive."