Lewis Hamilton’s strong start to the season continued after he topped second practice for the season opening Australian Grand Prix. The three times champion improved on his best time from the morning and his pole lap last season, going 0.217 faster.
Mercedes went into the weekend thinking that they wouldn’t have the huge margin they have had in recent years, however so far it looks as if they remain the team to beat. Hamilton’s 23.6 was just a tenth off the fastest ever lap of Albert Park.
His team-mate Valtteri Bottas was half a second of him. Hamilton told Sky Sports “It was 99 percent perfect. After struggling with some issues in Barcelona, we didn’t know if we’d have the same thing here.”
“What’s really encouraging is that we’ve arrived at the track just a week later and the car is exactly where it should be.” Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was second in-between Hamilton and Bottas. But it was clear he was still not able to match Hamilton on pace.
Kimi Raikkonen was fourth fastest a second off the pace. Ferrari’s hopes following winter testing of fighting with Mercedes have been dashed, as the Silver Arrows look strong both on single lap pace and on the race simulations.
Red Bull on the other hand are where they expected to be, with Daniel Ricciardo fifth and Max Verstappen sixth, a second down on Hamilton. Verstappen’s afternoon was brought to a premature end, the Dutchman went off-track moment at the 150mph swerves of Turns 11 and 12.
He says he had understeer and damaged the floor.
Carlos Sainz was fastest of the midfield in the Toro Rosso; he was seventh almost a second and a half down, the Spaniard ahead of team-mate Daniil Kvyat.
After a decent lunchtime session problems returned for McLaren. Fernando Alonso’s McLaren spent the early part of the session in pieces before making its way out to the circuit. But, the team got him back out onto track.
It was the same story for former team-mate Felipe Massa. The Williams driver only managed thirteen laps before he suffered an gearbox failure, this forced him to stop on track. Massa finished 14th, just behind Esteban Ocon.
The session ended under Virtual Safety Car after Marcus Ericsson had found the gravel at Turn Six.