As the F1 engines started on Friday in Melbourne, intrigue overshadowed a dominant display from Mercedes and Ferrari, as Sauber's legal battle with Giedo van der Garde continues.
Practice rounds at the opening rounds of the 2015 Formula One season on Friday were overshadowed by the continuing controversy involving the Sauber team and Giedo van der Garde.
Embroiled in a legal battle over their driver line-up, Sauber took to the track despite the fact that their assets may be under threat of seizure, pending a contempt of court action brought by lawyers for ditched driver Giedo van der Garde.
Skipping session one, Felipe Nasr (pictured above) and Marcus Ericsson entered the track during the second session, timing 11th and 15th respectively. Sauber is challenging an Australian court ruling that 2014 reserve driver Van der Garde has a valid contract to race the 2015 season. After winning his appeal, the Dutchman was expected to drive, but his lack of action will see the legal battle spill over to Saturday's qualifying.
Van der Garde's lawyers now want the Swiss team found guilty of contempt of court and its team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn, fined or jailed. Friday's hearing adjourned until Saturday morning takes the dispute into a sixth day, raising the prospect that it will not be resolved before Sunday's race.
Rosberg and Hamilton still the fastest
Whilst Sauber's controversy continues, the Mercedes pair of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton fought off a Ferrari challenge to comfortably post the fastest times on Friday. Germany's Rosberg, last year's runner-up in the drivers' championship, clocked the fastest time of one minute 27.697 seconds, ahead of British defending world champion Hamilton in 1:27.797.
"Definitely it's been a great day for us today in the cars, so we're very confident for tomorrow," said Rosberg, last year's winner at Albert Park.
On his debut for Ferrari, Germany's Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in the second session and looked delighted to be in the famous red car, with team mate Kimi Raikkonen fourth best. Vettel's fastest time was over seven-tenths of a second adrift of Rosberg however, only strengthening the belief that this Formula One season may already be Mercedes' to lose.
apc/al (AFP, Reuters)