Lewis Hamilton edged Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas as the reigning World Champions opened a sizeable advantage during second practice for Formula 1’s Australian Grand Prix.
The top three teams were covered by just two-tenths of a second in the opening session but in the second 90-minute session Mercedes pulled clear.
Hamilton, having aborted his first push lap on Soft tyres, posted a time of 1:22.600 on his next effort, leaving him just 0.048s clear of Bottas.
Mercedes’ nearest opponent was Red Bull – but the Honda-powered squad’s best lap was eight-tenths down, with that effort coming courtesy of Max Verstappen.
New team-mate Pierre Gasly was a mere 0.042s behind in fourth spot, while Sebastian Vettel – second to Hamilton earlier in the day – was 0.031s further back, but 0.873s behind Hamilton, as Ferrari did not show the same type of pace it displayed during pre-season testing.
Gasly, meanwhile, brought his session to a slightly early halt when he reported a lack of power from his RB15 but was able to return his car to the pit lane.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen again led the midfield contingent in sixth, though finished within a tenth of ex-team-mate Vettel, and in turn had Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg just two-thousands behind.
Daniel Ricciardo classified eighth as he continued preparations for his Renault debut at his home Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc was a subdued ninth, radioing to suggest “something was wrong” during his longer run, before spinning through the exit of Turn 5, having run heavily over the exit kerb.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean capped the top 10 – less than a tenth behind Leclerc – while Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat separated the Frenchman from Haas team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
Lance Stroll was the quicker of the Racing Point drivers in 13th position, ahead of lead McLaren racer Carlos Sainz Jr. and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi, who had a spin at Turn 15.
Sergio Perez took 16th for Racing Point, with Alexander Albon – who crashed during FP1 – having another off-track excursion, this time at Turn 15, and without suffering damage.
Lando Norris was 18th for McLaren, leaving the Williams drivers once more marooned at the back of the pack.
George Russell edged team-mate Robert Kubica by two-tenths of a second, but the reigning Formula 2 champion was 3.8s behind Hamilton, and faced a 1.9s gap to McLaren’s Norris.
Saturday’s third practice session will begin at 14:00 local time