Lewis Hamilton dominant in opening Australian Grand Prix practice
Australian Grand Prix - FP1

Lewis Hamilton dominant in opening Australian Grand Prix practice

Lewis Hamilton ensured Mercedes picked up where it left off in 2017 by topping the timesheets in the opening practice session of the Australian Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion, who is looking for his third win Down Under, clocked a 1:24.026 midway through the session on the ultra-soft tyre to head the field and teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.551s. Winter testing in Barcelona suggested the world champions would once again be Formula One's benchmark team with increased reliability and improved long-run pace, and so far Melbourne has justified that belief.

Max Verstappen finished third quickest and was the fastest of a tight Red Bull and Ferrari quartet, albeit over 0.745s off Hamilton's pace. Local hero Daniel Ricciardo was sixth quickest in the early session finishing 0.287s behind his teammate. Ferrari claimed fourth and fifth after opting to run the soft tyre in the early phase of the session and only making their way onto the faster super-soft tyre on Sebastian Vettel's car in the final 25 minutes.

Kimi Raikkonen finished a tenth of a second behind Verstappen using the soft while Vettel was a further tenth of a second back in fifth. However, the German's pace is still somewhat masked after he ruined his best flying lap by running wide at Turn 13.

Another team who looked to make significant gains during the offseason was Haas, and Romain Grosjean delivered with the seventh quickest time ahead of Fernando Alonso who recovered for eighth after enduring much of the session in the McLaren garage as the team rectified an exhaust issue.

Renault's Carlos Sainz and McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top 10 as Toro Rosso narrowly missed out with Pierre Gasly just 0.012s behind Vandoorne.

Sergey Sirotkin, who clocked the first official lap of 2018, was 12th fastest for Williams, narrowly edging Nico Hulkenberg's Renault and teammate Lance Stroll.

It was a disappointing session for Force India who were over two and a half seconds off the leaders' pace. Esteban Ocon was the quicker of the pair in 14th with Sergio Perez 16th.

Despite the fear that reduction in engines at a drivers' disposal would lead to a decrease in track activity, there was plenty of action during the first 90 minutes at Albert Park.

The second practice session at Albert Park gets underway at 4:00pm local time.

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