Mercedes 0.8s clear in FP2 in Melbourne

Elena Summers
March 16, 2019

Lewis Hamilton felt a "positive buzz" from his Mercedes as he set the pace in practice at the Australian Grand Prix on Friday.

Hamilton, using soft Pirellis, edged teammate Valtteri Bottas into second place by 0.048s with a lap completed just after the halfway mark of the 90-minute session to secure the position.

Vettel's new teammate Charles Leclerc was 0.074 back in third place, ahead of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

Vettel was not far off the pace of the Red Bulls in the second session but he slid through the grass and complained of handling problems on the team radio.

"I think [Mercedes] looked really quick", the German said.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel feel no need to stamp their authority on the new F1 season ahead of the curtain raiser in Australia.

Alfa Romeo's Kimi Raikkonen was fifth quickest - just 0.099secs behind his former Ferrari team-mate Vettel. Friday saw the Free Practice sessions of the Australian Grand Prix, the first race on the calendar.

Nico Hulkenberg and home hope Daniel Ricciardo, who switched from Red Bull, were seventh and eighth fastest respectively in FP2.

Charles Leclerc had a hard session, ending up down in ninth place and over 1.1s off the pace on his soft tire run, and then suffering a slightly odd spin late in the session.

"They've shown good reliability in pre-season testing which tells you they can turn the engine up a bit more perhaps".

"We still have lots to learn and improve on, but we're getting there".

The other rookie in the field - 2018 Formula 2 champion George Russell - also had an off when he ran wide at Turn 4 late in the session and had to recover through the gravel, on what was a chastening day for Williams.

"We didn't really get into the groove and rhythm", he admitted, "and that's quite important around here". The forecast is for warmer conditions for Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race. So for Raikkonen to be that close in a auto that will undoubtedly be slower only emphasised the point that Ferrari can find plenty more time.

It was also a frustrating day for Poland's Robert Kubica, in his first Formula One drive since his right arm was partially severed in a horror rallying accident eight years ago.

British-born Thai debutant Alexander Albon had a tough day, crashing his Toro Rosso to lose his front wing and cause a brief halt in the first session. He reiterated that Mercedes had plenty of "work to do" in Thursday's media conference.

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