The Formula 1 circus had two free practice sessions earlier today for the Australian Grand Prix at the Albert Park street circuit. The first session was led by Robert Kubica in his Renault. He clocked in 22 laps and set a lap time of 1:26.927. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg and McLaren’s Jenson Button were second and third fastest.

Bahrain GP’s top finishers and championship leaders Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa from Ferrari settled for sixth and fourth respectively. The driver who almost won the Bahrain race Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull finished in fifth place while Lewis Hamilton of McLaren ended the session in seventh place followed by Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi and Renault’s Vitaly Petrov. 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher was 12th fastest in his Mercedes GP car.

New comers Hispania, Virgin and Lotus made up the back end of the grid. In this first session all three teams managed to clock some crucial laps. Lotus Racing shined the brightest among all three with Jarno Trulli setting 1:31.652 which put him in 19th. That time is about five seconds behind the leader, a gap that was also seen during pre-season testing and during the Bahrain GP.

Heikki Kovalainen was right behind him followed by Lucas Di Grassi who was slightly over a second slower than both the Lotus drivers. Hispania’s Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok settled for 22nd and 23rd respectively. Senna was about 0.6 seconds slower than Di Grassi’s time. His team mate was a further 0.8 seconds behind. This is mostly due to Chandhok’s lack of track time with the Hispania car. The final spot was taken up by Timo Glock from Virgin.

The second session was ‘blessed’ with rain and both McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button took up the top two positions followed by local hero Mark Webber in his Red Bull. Michael Schumacher, for the first time finished ahead of this team mate in fourth. Vitaly Petrov was fifth followed by Sebastien Buemi, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and his team mate Vitantonio Liuzzi. Rubens Barrchello from Williams and Schumacher’s team mate Rosberg took up ninth and tenth spots.

Both Ferrari drivers finished outside of the top ten but revealed that they were concentrating on Sunday’s race preparations. Yet again, Lotus Racing finished ahead of Virgin and Hispania. Hekki Kovalainen was 18th, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Jaime Alguersuari. Jarno Trulli was 20th. Both Virgin and Hispania had problems with their cars and only Timo Glock managed to complete nine laps, finishing in 21st.

Lucas Di Grassi, Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna failed to set any time as Di Grassi suffered from problems with his telemetry system while Chandhok and Senna had fuel pressure and transmission-related issues. Lotus Racing has been consistently proving that it has the reliability but can it inch its way towards teams like Toro Rosso and Sauber? Well only time will tell.