Lewis Hamilton set the pace in the first session of the 2017 F1 season as Mercedes topped the timesheets in Practice One for the Australian GP.
Hamilton outpaced new team-mate Valtteri Bottas by over half a second in what was, on the surface, a tough first official session for the Finn as a Mercedes driver.
The two Mercedes were the only cars in the field to set their fastest time on ultrasofts – the quickest tyre in Pirelli’s portfolio.
Hamilton’s lap time of 1:24.220 was over five seconds faster than the benchmark time in the corresponding session a year ago as F1 2017 instantly delivered on its promise of rapid increases in speed.
Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen were third and fourth fastest respectively. However, Ricciardo was the quickest driver of all on the supersoft compound – the first hint, perhaps, of the team’s true potential.
As expected, the Red Bull car has been heavily revised since winter testing with the team introducing a series of aerodynamic improvements for the season curtain-raiser. Engine suppliers Renault have also introduced fixes for their winter reliability problems.
But Ferrari kept their cards close to their chest throughout the 90-minute session in which Sebastian Vettel was a spectator for the bulk of proceedings as the Scuderia declined to use up precious engine life on a dusty circuit.
Vettel eventually set a competitive lap time in the final 15 minutes when he recorded a 1:25.464 on supersofts.