Lewis Hamilton went quickest in the first practice session of the new Formula One campaign, finishing more than half a second clear of new team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The three-time world champion ended the session at Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit with a best time of 1:24.220, set on ultrasoft tyres, to beat Bottas, who moved to Mercedes from Williams at the start of this year, by 0.583 seconds.
Apart from the Mercedes pairing, no other driver ran with the purple-banded Pirelli tyres during the session and Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo used the red supersoft compound to take third spot on the timesheet. The home favourite set a best lap of 1:24.886 to finish 0.666 adrift of Hamilton’s pacesetting time.
Ricciardo was followed by team-mate Verstappen who finished a second off the pace after reporting gearbox synchronisation problems early in the session.
Ferrari, frequently the class of the field during pre-season testing, had a low key session, with fifth-placed Kimi Räikkönen heading team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
Räikkönen set a best time of 1:25.372s to finish just over 1.1s behind Hamilton. Vettel was a tenth further back in sixth.
Felipe Massa was seventh for Williams on his return from retirement, followed by Haas’ Romain Grosjean and new Renault signing Nico Hulkenberg. The four were, however, separated by just four hundredths of a second. Force India’s Sergio Perez completed the top 10 with a time of 1:26.276, which put him a full two seconds off the P1 pace.
Carlos Sainz was 11th ahead of Toro Rosso team-mate Daniil Kvyat, while 13th place went to 18-year-old rookie Lance Stroll who enjoyed smooth and incident-free start to his F1 career.
After a disastrous pre-season testing period, McLaren looked better placed in the opening session in Melbourne, with Fernando Alonso taking P14. New team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne was held in the garage for almost an hour at the start of the session, however, and he finished in last place having completed just six laps.
2017 Formula One Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:24.220
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:24.803 0.583
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:24.886 0.666
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:25.246 1.026
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:25.372 1.152
6 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:25.464 1.244
7 Felipe Massa Williams 1:26.142 1.922
8 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:26.168 1.948
9 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:26.183 1.963
10 Sergio Perez Force India 1:26.276 2.056
11 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso 1:26.450 2.230
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:26.514 2.294
13 Lance Stroll Williams 1:26.734 2.514
14 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:27.116 2.896
15 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:27.348 3.128
16 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:27.656 3.436
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 20 1:27.667 3.447
18 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 22 1:28.539 4.319
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault 6 1:28.585 4.365
20 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren