Five-time world champion emerges quickest in the first two practice sessions

By Mirror: Saturday, March 16th 2019 at 09:59 GMT +3 | Sports
Lewis Hamilton [Courtesy]

The five-time world champion was quickest in the first two practice sessions ahead of the season-opening race in Melbourne

Lewis Hamilton got his season-opening Australian Grand Prix weekend off to the perfect start by clinching a practice double on Friday.

The reigning world champion claimed on Thursday that his team had 'work to do' after Ferrari proved faster in pre-season testing in Barcelona.

But the Silver Arrows delivered a timely warning to their rivals at Melbourne's Albert Park in second practice on Friday afternoon.

First Valtteri Bottas went around in one minute 22.648 seconds to lead the pack halfway through the 90-minute session with his first lap on soft tyres - half a second quicker than his pace on mediums.

Then Hamilton went purple in his first sector and laid down a marker ahead of Saturday's qualifying session with a time of 1min 22.600secs.

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Hamilton celebrates at a past event [Courtesy]

The Mercedes team, who have won the constructors’ championship for the last five seasons, look in imperious form with the remaining pack at least 0.8 seconds behind the 34-year-old Briton.

Such was the dominance of Mercedes that Hamilton's quickest time on the slower medium compound - one minute 23.148 seconds - would have been good enough for second place.

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc for Ferrari, under new management this season, managed to get within hundredths of a second in first practice but were left with food for thought.

The German, a four-time winner of the world championship, recorded the fastest lap of one minute 23.473 - an improvement of 0.164 seconds compared to FP1 and only good enough for fifth place.

His teammate Leclerc fared even worse, spinning out at turn five late in the session and finishing ninth in the classification, 1.154 seconds behind Hamilton.

Red Bull took third and fourth, with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly separated by 0.042 seconds, while Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and Australian Daniel Ricciardo found the pace they missed in the first session to come in seventh and eighth respectively.

Kimi Raikkonen, preparing for his 17th Australian Grand Prix, was a tenth of a second behind Vettel in his Alfa Romeo for sixth, with Haas driver Romain Grosjean rounding out the top ten 1.214 seconds off the pace of Hamilton.

 

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