Lewis Hamilton tops opening practice in Melbourne
Australian Grand Prix Free Practice 1

Lewis Hamilton tops opening practice in Melbourne

23/03/2017

Lewis Hamilton continued on where he finished up in 2016 by topping the timesheets in 2017's opening practice session at Albert Park.

The three-time world champion, searching for a fifth consecutive win in Formula One, clocked a 1:24.220 on the ultra-soft tyre midway through the session to finish 0.583s ahead of new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. For the early part of the session Bottas looked to have him Hamilton covered but the Briton was in a class of his own on the softer compound tyre.

Local hope Daniel Ricciardo was third quickest with a 1:24.886 ahead of teammate Max Verstappen. Both Red Bull drivers ran with the super-soft tyre, so performance relative to Mercedes remains a mystery. However, if the compound differential is around the expected 0.8 seconds, it points to very promising signs for Red Bull.

Preseason favourites Ferrari opted to spend the majority of the session inside the garage, only coming out late when the track was clear. Like Red Bull, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel both ran the super-soft tyre finishing fifth and sixth respectively. Four-time champion Vettel managed just 10 laps in the session, the second fewest of any driver.

These early times prove just how much quicker the new generation cars are. In the same session in 2016, the fastest time was a 1:29.725, albeit in wet-dry conditions, while Hamilton's pole position time was only a fraction quicker at 1:23.837.

Felipe Massa showed no signs of slowing down going seventh quickest in his Williams ahead of the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez -- who was sporting Force India's new pink livery -- rounded out the top 10.

Carlos Sainz managed P11 with a 1:26.450, edging out teammate Daniil Kvyat by 0.064s and Williams' Lance Stroll.

McLaren continue to be well off the frontrunners' pace. Fernando Alonso finished in P14 with a best time of 1:27.116 while Stoffel Vandoorne was a full second and a half further back in last place.

The second practice session which gets underway at 4pm local time will likely shed more light on true performance.

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