A new season but a familiar name sits atop the Australian Grand Prix timesheet.
New, faster cars saw the benchmark time rapidly eclipse last year’s best. While the best remained Lewis Hamilton as the Brit topped the timesheet from Bottas, as Ferrari watched on from the garage.
For the first time in 2017, Formula One cars rolled out the pit lane for a free practice session. With Romain Grosjean taking the green light to open the session and shatter the silence.
Grosjean was far from alone as the Formula One paddock rolled out onto the Albert Park streets for their installation laps. Where McLaren was already playing catch up after torrid winter tests, seeing Vandoorne run with an array of aero sensors.
Reliability issues, however, soon crept into the mix for McLaren. Sending Vandoorne back to the pits with a water pressure issue. Something that failed to keep him out the session, but a sign of how tough times are for the Woking outfit resigned to running with their engines turned down.
Mercedes and Red Bull, after both having power unit snags over the winter, were not in the same boat as McLaren. As the two manufacturers jousted for the first fastest lap of the weekend.
It had been the only rookie on the 2017 grid to post the first timed lap of the weekend, with Lance Stroll posting a 1:33.380. But his steady opener was nothing compared to Hamilton’s first flyer, with the three-time champ going three seconds faster than his FP1 best a year ago.
His first free practice time from the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, however, was set during mixed conditions. But the weekend’s best 1:23.837 was nearly in sight already as the benchmark continued to fall.
Despite being on supersoft tyres, Ricciardo demoted the then-fastest man Valtteri Bottas to move top on a 1:24.886. With the Red Bull running a new front wing and floor challenging the Silver Arrow running a new triple-element T-Wing.
Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes replacement soon had the ultrasoft tyres fitted, though. Moving back atop the timesheet by eigh-hundredths of a second. A slender margin in comparison to what Hamilton was capable of, as the Brit opened a half-second window.
Hamilton’s table-topping time of 1:24.220 was by far the fastest of the 90-minute session and ensured Mercedes topped the season-opening practice. But the pace of Ferrari remains a question after the Italian team sat out a majority of the running due to the high levels of dust out on track.
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||19||1’24.886||0.666|
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||19||1’25.246||1.026|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India||29||1’26.276||2.056|
|11||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||24||1’26.450||2.23|
|12||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||25||1’26.514||2.294|
|16||Esteban Ocon||Force India||23||1’27.656||3.436|