Australian GP, Practice One: Lewis Hamilton pips Sebastian Vettel
Hamilton edges out Ferrari pair Vettel and Leclerc, with Verstappen also in the mix; Alex Albon spins Toro Rosso, while Williams struggle
By James Galloway in Melbourne
Last Updated: 15/03/19 6:27am
Lewis Hamilton topped the first F1 practice session of the new season as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull proved very-closely matched in the first exchanges of the Australian GP weekend.
Mercedes and Ferrari were split by less than a tenth of a second, with Max Verstappen an additional tenth back for Red Bull.
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Hamilton's pacesetting time of 1:23.599 was a mere 0.038s quicker than perennial Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, with Charles Leclerc right behind his new team-mate in third.
Verstappen's early pace in the new Red Bull-Honda also gives the new partnership encouragement heading into the remainder of the weekend.
"That session reinforced our views about the top three being very close, then there being about a second back to the midfield, which is very close as well," said Sky F1's Martin Brundle.
Valtteri Bottas headed the timesheet in the early stages of the session but slipped to fifth in the second Mercedes, with the Finn running off the circuit at the penultimate corner.
Midfield also close, but Williams cut adrift
Kimi Raikkonen was a promising sixth-quickest for the Alfa Romeo team, with the returning Daniil Kvyat seventh for Toro Rosso.
But Williams' expected early-season struggles appeared to be laid bare in Practice One as their two cars trailed over four seconds off the pace.
After delays to the team's testing programme were followed by technical boss Paddy Lowe taking a leave of absence last week, Williams finished 19th and 20th in the opening session and clearly have much work to do.
Toro Rosso rookie Alex Albon, meanwhile, became the first driver to hit the barriers this season when he span out mid-way through the session. The British-born driver broke his car's front wing, although was able to drive back to the team's pit box.
As expected, the midfield teams appeared very well-matched straight away in Melbourne, with four tenths of a second covering six teams.
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While Alfa Romeo, Toro Rosso and Haas headed the midfield in P1, Renault were 10th with Nico Hulkenberg and 17th with new signing Daniel Ricciardo - although the Australian was believed to have been held up on what would have been his quickest lap.
Racing Point, who have brought a big upgrade to the opening weekend, and McLaren were at the bottom end of this pack.
Australian GP, Practice One Timesheet
|1) Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1:23.599|
|2) Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari||+0.038|
|3) Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||+0.074|
|4) Max Verstappen||Red Bull||+0.193|
|5) Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes||+0.267|
|6) Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1.217|
|7) Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||+1.233|
|8) Pierre Gasly||Red Bull||+1.333|
|9) Kevin Magnussen||Haas||+1.335|
|10) Nico Hulkenberg||Renault||+1.416|
|11) Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1.567|
|12) Romain Grosjean||Haas||+1.625|
|13) Alex Albon||Toro Rosso||+1.631|
|14) Carlos Sainz||McLaren||+1.686|
|15) Lance Stroll||Racing Point||+1.689|
|16) Sergio Perez||Racing Point||+1.899|
|17) Daniel Ricciardo||Renault||+2.035|
|18) Lando Norris||McLaren||+2.367|
|19) Robert Kubica||Williams||+4.315|
|20) George Russell||Williams||+5.141|
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