Hamilton tops timesheets in practice for Australian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton set out his intent with a practice double ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

The reigning world champion had said his team had “work to do” after Ferrari proved faster in pre-season testing in Barcelona.

But no-one could match the Silver Arrows under blue skies 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.

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 a 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.

Just as was the case in first practice, two of the British newcomers finished in the bottom three in second practice.

Lando Norris was more than two seconds behind the lead with a best lap of one minute 24.733 seconds in his McLaren – 0.6 seconds behind teammate Carlos Sainz – while the Williams duo of George Russell and Robert Kubica were at the back of the pack with a deficit of 3.853 and 4.055 seconds respectively.

- Press Association

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