Any suggestions that Mercedes may not be the top team this season were quashed on Friday as Lewis Hamilton led a Mercedes one-two in practice for the Australian GP.
After weeks of speculation, Formula 1 finally has its first clue as to the 2018 pecking order after the opening 90 minutes of competitive action.
Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari tussled at the top of timesheets in FP1 at the Albert Park circuit, with all three teams – and all six drivers – taking a turn in P1.
As the lap times tumbled in the heat, Mercedes opted to continue on the ultrasoft tyres with Hamilton lowering the benchmark to a 1:24.026 while Valtteri Bottas slotted into second place – half a second down.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) March 23, 2018
With Red Bull opting to swap from ultras to supersofts, Mercedes were assured of the 1-2 especially as Ferrari decided to stick with the harder two compounds, the soft and supersoft Pirellis.
Max Verstappen, who set his fastest time on the ultras, was third, 0.7s off the pace, while Kimi Raikkonen, running the soft tyres, was a further tenth down.
Sebastian Vettel was fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean.
It wasn’t the best of the starts to the season for McLaren, who ran into more troubles as Fernando Alonso was sidelined with an overheating exhaust.
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 23, 2018
Although McLaren stated prior to this weekend’s race that they had solved all the issues that afflicted them in testing, that did not appear to the case.
Alonso was out on track for the final half of the session and worked his way up to eighth place on the supersoft tyres, 1.8s down on Hamilton’s P1 time.
Carlos Sainz and Stoffel Vandoorne completed the top 10.
As for F1’s rookies, Sergey Sirotkin was 11th with one notable error as he entered the pits too hot and smacked the wall. Charles Leclerc was P20.
Australian Grand Prix FP1 Times
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.026
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:24.577 0.551
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:24.771 0.745
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:24.875 0.849
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:24.995 0.969
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:25.063 1.037
7 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:25.730 1.704
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:25.896 1.870
9 Carlos Sainz Lotus 1:25.922 1.896
10 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:26.482 2.456
11 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:26.494 2.468
12 Sergey Sirotkin Williams 1:26.536 2.510
13 Nico Hulkenberg Lotus 1:26.583 2.557
14 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:26.605 2.579
15 Lance Stroll Williams 1:26.636 2.610
16 Sergio Perez Force India 1:26.767 2.741
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:27.035 3.009
18 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso 1:27.745 3.719
19 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:27.964 3.938
20 Charles Leclerc Sauber 1:28.853 4.827
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