World champion Sebastian Vettel took up where he left off last season as Red Bull dominated opening practice on Friday ahead of the weekend's season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg both posted competitive times and appeared to
have good race pace too until trouble struck in the form of a crash into the tyre barrier for Hamilton and a retirement due to gearbox trouble for Rosberg.
Vettel -- bidding for a fourth consecutive world drivers' crown -- posted the fastest times in both practice sessions, settling with a best lap of one minute 25.908 seconds in the afternoon to stake his claim for Sunday's Melbourne race.
Australian Mark Webber (1:26.172) completed an emphatic one-two for the champion Red Bull team as main title rivals Ferrari and McLaren trailed in their wake.
"Overall it was a good day for us. It was pretty seamless and there was no trouble with the car," Vettel said. "After all the mileage of testing, it was fun to be out there. This circuit doesn't get easier, it's a good challenge. Today was a good day and the balance was good, but we need to be ready for what's coming up."
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, edged out by Vettel in last year's championship, finished 0.840 secs behind Vettel's fastest lap, while last season's Melbourne winner Jenson Button was well down in 11th place in his McLaren.
Lotus's assured performance in Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix was not quite enough to raise a smile from Kimi Raikkonen, but the former world champion was pleased to be within reach of pace-setters Red Bull.
Raikkonen, third in the championship last year, and his French team mate Romain Grosjean grabbed the fourth and fifth best times behind Red Bull's sheet-topping Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, with Mercedes's Nico Rosberg third.
"It all went okay, no problems. The car seems to be behaving very well so far, it's okay," the quietly spoken 33-year-old Finn told reporters in the paddock at Albert Park.