Rosberg on top as Hamilton struggles
Germany’s Rosberg, son of Finland’s 1982 champion Keke, lapped quickest in both of the afternoon sessions at a sunny Albert Park while Hamilton was 18th of the 20 drivers in the second.
The three teams using controversial rear diffusers – Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams – showed why their rivals were so concerned by filling six of the top seven places in a second session held late in the afternoon.
The trio had been subjected to protests by other teams, who argued that their cars broke the rules, on Thursday before stewards cleared them for Sunday’s race with an appeal now pending.
Rosberg, who finished third in the Melbourne season-opener last year, led Japanese team-mate Kazuki Nakajima in a Williams one-two in first practice.
His best time of one minute and 26.053 in the second was 0.104 quicker than Brazilian Rubens Barrichello in the Brawn and well inside the 2008 pole of 1:26.714 set by last year’s race winner Hamilton.
Hamilton, who has already warned that it would be tough to score a point this weekend in an uncompetitive car struggling for pace, showed that McLaren’s problems were far from imaginary.
His Finnish team-mate Heikki Kovalainen reinforced that impression by finishing just one place ahead of the 24-year-old at the end of the day.
His Australian team-mate Mark Webber did only seven laps in first practice but turned in the fourth fastest time in the later session.
Champions Ferrari had a largely anonymous day.
The regulations have changed dramatically this year, with cars running on slick tyres and with new-look aerodynamics.
Some teams are also using the new KERS energy recovery systems that give drivers an extra boost at the push of a button.
Sunday’s race is also starting later than usual to cater for European television audiences, with the finish expected in the evening twilight.
Join Eurosport-Yahoo for LIVE text commentary and timing of the Australian GP this weekend, starting with qualifying at 06:00 UK time on Saturday morning!!
Play Fantasy F1 – join up now by clicking on the link under the picture; then form a mini-league with friends, family or colleagues and watch your progress in your national league. You may just find yourself at the top of the grid!