No problem for Mercedes if Hamilton skydives or surfs

No problem for Mercedes if Hamilton skydives or surfs

No problem for Mercedes if Hamilton skydives or surfs

The Briton edged team mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.048 seconds but had a yawning 0.800 seconds gap to the Red Bull of third fastest Max Verstappen, with Vettel further adrift with the fifth quickest time.

But in the second session, when teams started to stretch their legs a little, the best Ferrari could do was fifth with Vettel, almost nine-tenths of a second behind Hamilton.

"The rumours are they found 15 kilowatts over the winter - that's potentially half the deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari".

Perhaps F1 would be wise, though, not to pin its hopes for 2019 exclusively on a straight duel between Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, his erstwhile adversary at Ferrari.

Ricciardo joined Renault ahead of the 2019 season, having spent five seasons with the Red Bull Racing squad, where he won seven Grands Prix, in the knowledge that he would not be challenging for wins and podiums immediately, but building the team towards that target in future seasons.

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.

Vettel later bolted on softs and put in a lap of 1m23.473s to go fifth fastest, subsequently describing the auto as "still a bit wobbly" over the radio. "There's plenty of things we can improve on, which is a positive, but it's absolutely not a bad start at all".

Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen

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.

"What we've got to do is study - as we always do on a Friday night - analyze everything but the fact is we've got two cars that continue to go around".

Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said Hamilton's activities outside of Formula One - skydiving and his fashion brand - were not a "negative distraction". The forecast is for warmer conditions for Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.

"It was a tricky day for us".

It was a tough day for Thai rookie Alexander Albon of Toro Rosso who crashed in first practice to prompt a red flag before spinning off track several times in the second.

"I think for us we are not yet where we would like to be, not in terms of lap times but in terms of vehicle feel and handling", he added.

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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