Australian GP: Hamilton leads Mercedes 1-2 in second practice

Lewis Hamilton celebrates pole position

Pre-season pacesetter Ferrari had a subdued session, lapping well off the pace early in the session on medium-compound Pirellis, with Sebastian Vettel complaining over the radio that something felt wrong in Turns 1 and 4.

After winter testing, Hamilton said he thought Ferrari were a half-second quicker than Mercedes.

Ferrari, who appeared to have the quickest vehicle in pre-season testing, were fourth with Sebastian Vettel.

The man Leclerc replaced, Finnish former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, pushed his Alfa Romeo - formerly Sauber - into sixth.

The first day of running for the 2019 Formula One season is in the books, and after four months without a race the opening day of practice raised nearly as many questions as it answered.

Renault struggled during the session under blue skies in Melbourne, an electrical problem consigning Hulkenberg to the pits for the majority of the session and Daniel Ricciardo struggling to find pace on his home track with a deficit of two seconds behind Hamilton. Both Ferrari and Mercedes will be giving it everything, and we'll get our first true indication of where exactly they stand.

The pair were very much on the pace in the first practice session yesterday, with both drivers within eight-hundredths of a second of Lewis Hamilton's best time.

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

Pole position qualifier Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates in parc ferme during qualifying for the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
Lewis Hamilton produced a quick lap when he needed it in Australia Credit Getty Images

Hamilton, whose first win of last season came in Azerbaijan in round four, said he did not feel as if he needed to grab the new campaign by the scruff of the neck.

The Formula 1 season has begun again, with faster cars, new rules, and new line-ups.

There was some speculation in the paddock that Ferrari may have been sandbagging, or deliberately holding back ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

The German said afterwards it had been "a tricky day".

"If you look today at how close it is, even the mid-pack are really close, so I would say even more than ever before there's even less margin for error", said Hamilton. "We didn't really get into the groove and the rhythm".

British-born Thai debutant Alexander Albon also had a tough start, spinning his Toro Rosso at turn two and having a low-impact crash to lose his front wing and cause a brief halt in the session. This year also sees a number of new drivers at numerous teams, which makes this first race in Australia all the more interesting.

FIA chief Jean Todt held a minute's silence to mark his passing in a press conference, with deputy race director Michael Masi fulfilling Whiting's duties in Melbourne.

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