The Sports Bay

Formula 1

Australian Grand Prix: Hamilton Starts In Similar Fashion During Practice

Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in first practice as a new era of Formula 1 started in familiar fashion at the Australian Grand Prix.

The talk before the weekend in Melbourne had been about the step forward made by Ferrari over the winter but their fastest driver Kimi Raikkonen was down in fifth.

Hamilton was using faster tyres when he set his fastest time, but the Mercedes appeared quicker on the same tyres, too.

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas was second ahead of the two Red Bulls.

Local hero Daniel Ricciardo, who has had a busy week crammed with promotional appearances, was third fastest, 0.36 seconds quicker than team-mate Max Verstappen.

Bottas, in his first appearance for the Mercedes team, was a chastening 0.583secs behind Hamilton.

The Ferraris, with Sebastian Vettel one place and 0.092secs behind Raikkonen, were more than a second slower than the Mercedes.

Raikkonen and Vettel used the super-soft tyre to set their fastest lap while Mercedes were on the ultra-soft.

But the Mercedes also set a faster time than Ferrari’s best when using the super-soft – Bottas was 0.23secs quicker than Raikkonen’s best.

Red Bull entered the weekend expecting to be the third quickest team and talking up the progress Ferrari had made over the winter but, on the same tyre as Ferrari, Ricciardo was 0.486secs quicker than Raikkonen.

McLaren-Honda had a better time of it than in their dire pre-season testing programme, which was beset by reliability problems, but even so two-time world champion Fernando Alonso was 14th fastest and 2.896secs off the pace, also using the super-soft tyre.

His team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was 20th and last after a problem-affected session.

Britain’s Jolyon Palmer also had a troubled 90 minutes, 19th fastest and needing to end his session early because of a transmission problem.

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