Champ Lewis Hamilton means business at Australian Grand Prix

Updated: Mar 16, 2019, 11:06 IST | Abhishek Takle

The Briton ended both of Friday's two 90-minute sessions at the top of the timesheets, with his fastest lap of one minute 22.600 seconds set in the afternoon, over a second quicker than his morning benchmark.

Champ Lewis Hamilton means business at Australian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton drives his Mercedes during the second practice session in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/AFP

Lewis Hamilton fired the opening salvo of the 2019 Formula One season, setting the pace ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas on a dominant opening day of practice for Mercedes at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Briton ended both of Friday's two 90-minute sessions at the top of the timesheets, with his fastest lap of one minute 22.600 seconds set in the afternoon, over a second quicker than his morning benchmark.

Finland's Bottas, fifth in the opening session, ended the day with the second fastest time, 0.048 seconds off his team-mate's pace. "I have a positive buzz from driving the car today – this is what I love doing," said Hamilton.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton

"We got through our programme really well, there were no issues on track. "There's plenty of stuff that we can improve on, but this was not a bad start." The two Silver Arrows were well clear of the rest of the field, with Red Bull's Max Verstappen their closest challenger but still a whopping 0.8 seconds off Hamilton's best.

Sebastian Vettel was only fifth for Ferrari, 0.873 seconds off the pace. Ferrari had gone into the weekend as cautious favourites on the back of their testing form. But neither Vettel nor new team-mate Charles Leclerc, less than a tenth slower than Hamilton in second and third in the morning, were able match the gains made by the Mercedes cars between sessions.

That prompted questions about whether Ferrari, who set the timing screens alight in testing, were holding something in reserve, a suggestion Vettel dismissed. "I can feel I have the car under me that I had in testing but it doesn't do the same thing," said the 31-year-old, who ran wide off the track on one occasion.

"It's not doing exactly what I like here and there so that's why I'm lacking confidence. "At this point we are all flat out trying to understand what happened in the session."
Behind the top-three teams Kimi Raikkonen gave Alfa Romeo an encouraging start with the sixth-fastest time, narrowly edging out the Nico Hulkenberg's Renault.

The German's team-mate and home hero Daniel Ricciardo ended his first Friday driving for the French manufacturer, after moving over from Red Bull, in eighth after a few niggles, including ill-fitting seatbelts, delayed his programme of running. Leclerc survived a spin to go ninth ahead of Romain Grosjean who rounded out the top-ten for Haas.

Williams' troubled start to the season continued with the Grove-based squad mired at the bottom of the timesheets. They were also well off the pace with rookie George Russell and the returning Robert Kubica 3.8 and four seconds slower than Hamilton's best.

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