Melbourne FP1: Hamilton sets early pace chased by Bottas

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets ahead of new Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas in the first free practise session at the Australian Grand Prix, going over five seconds faster than he did at the same venue

Hamilton clocked a flying lap of 1:24.220 on a warm, at Albert Park, more than half a second faster than the Finn in a largely incident-free session.

Red Bull drivers Dan Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were third and fourth fastest respectively, with the Ferraris rounding out the top six. The Reds, who are expected to have closed the gap to the Silver Arrows, were one second adrift of the top top time.

However, Hamilton and Bottas posted their fastest laps on the quicker Pirelli ultra-soft tyres, while other drivers stuck with the super softs, leaving the true pace of the cars unclear.

More definitive was the overall speed of the new cars, many of which were over four seconds faster per lap compared to the corresponding practise at last year’s race.

Hamilton’s time was less than four-tenths of a second shy of the qualifying lap of 1:23.837 that put him on pole position at Albert Park last year.

Three-times F1 champion Hamilton would have been pleased to put down an early marker ahead of his new team mate Bottas, who replaced retired champion Nico Rosberg.

Ferrari set the pace during winter testing but the Scuderia had a subdued session, with Raikkonen edging four-times champion Sebastian Vettel with the fifth fastest lap.

Felipe Massa was seventh fastest for Williams ahead of Haas’s Romain Grosjean.

Fernando Alonso was 14th on the time-sheet for Honda-powered McLaren, with his team mate Stoffel Vandoorne at the bottom, underscoring the challenge for the Woking-based outfit after their problems during winter testing.

Briton Jolyon Palmer was 19th out of the 20 cars, his session cut short due to a seal problem with his Renault.

Canadian rookie Lance Stroll was 13th for Williams and got through the session unscathed after a number of incidents during winter testing.

Australian Grand Prix, Free Practice 1 – Best Lap Times

1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:24.220   22
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:24.803 +0.583s 25
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:24.886 +0.666s 19
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:25.246 +1.026s 19
5 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:25.372 +1.152s 16
6 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:25.464 +1.244s 10
7 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:26.142 +1.922s 28
8 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:26.168 +1.948s 20
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:26.183 +1.963s 15
10 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:26.276 +2.056s 29
11 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:26.450 +2.230s 24
12 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 1:26.514 +2.294s 25
13 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:26.734 +2.514s 29
14 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:27.116 +2.896s 18
15 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:27.348 +3.128s 30
16 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:27.656 +3.436s 23
17 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:27.667 +3.447s 20
18 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 1:28.539 +4.319s 22
19 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:28.585 +4.365s 6
20 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:28.695 +4.475s 14