Melbourne: The Red Bull pair of Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel topped the charts in opening practice ahead of this weekend`s season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Webber on Friday thrilled his home fans with a best lap of one minute 26.831 seconds, just 0.327sec ahead of his world champion team-mate Vettel (1:27.158).
The duo confirmed Red Bull`s impressive winter testing ahead of the new season and they held the early pace ahead of Ferrari`s Fernando Alonso.
Webber, who is bidding to win his first home GP at his 10th attempt, reeled off his quickest lap in the last moments of the opening session, staged in cool cloudy conditions on the Albert Park street circuit.
Spaniard Alonso, the two-time world champion, clocked in third-fastest with 1:27.749, some 0.918sec down on Webber`s time.
Alonso, a winner here five years ago with Renault, looks Ferrari`s best hope of winning their seventh Australian GP in the last 12 years.
German Nico Rosberg, a Mercedes team-mate of seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, was fourth-fastest in 1:28.152 ahead of Brazil`s Rubens Barrichello in a Williams (1:28.430).
Two-time race winner Jenson Button and his McLaren team-mate Lewis Hamilton were sixth and seventh respectively in opening practice.
Button, bidding for a hattrick of Melbourne victories, had a best lap of 1:28.440 ahead of Hamilton`s 1:28.483.
Schumacher was eighth quickest in 1:28.690, while Alonso`s Brazilian Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa had an eventful session, coming off into the gravel and later wearing out his front right tyre before finishing 11th fastest.
The second free practice session takes place later Friday ahead of Saturday`s qualifying for Sunday`s first race of the season.