Lewis Hamilton edges Ferrari drivers in opening Australian GP practice session

Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton opened the 2019 Formula 1 season on top as the leading three teams were covered by less than two-tenths of a second in Australia.

In warm and sunny conditions at Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit Hamilton rose to the front of the pack with a best effort of 1:23.599, once the front-runners switched to Soft tyres.

That effort left him just 0.038s clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – chasing a hat-trick of Melbourne wins this weekend – while his team-mate Charles Leclerc was a mere 0.036s further back in third spot.

Max Verstappen classified fourth for Red Bull, 0.193s behind pacesetter Hamilton, as the team’s partnership with Honda got off to an encouraging start.

Valtteri Bottas, who led the way through the early runs, ultimately slipped to fifth, and came close to striking the wall after dipping a wheel onto the entry grass at the penultimate corner.

The expected close nature of the midfield was displayed for the first time as sixth-placed Kimi Raikkonen through Lance Stroll – in 15th – were covered by just half a second, albeit with a mixture of Soft and Medium tyres used for respective fastest times.

Alfa Romeo’s Raikkonen, who was almost a second down on nearest rival Bottas, headed Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat, interloper Pierre Gasly (Red Bull), and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Nico Hulkenberg suffered a delayed start to his session while Renault investigated a potential electronics issue but he was able to emerge and put in a lap that secured him a top 10 spot.

Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi was 11th, ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso rookie Alexander Albon.

Albon was the quickest of the trio of fully-fledged rookies but caused a brief red flag when he spun and hit the barriers through Turn 2, causing front-end damage to his car; the Toro Rosso driver was nonetheless able to recover his STR14 to the pit lane for the team to begin repairs.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was the quickest McLaren driver in 14th spot, ahead of Racing Point pair Stroll and Sergio Perez, as the team introduced a raft of updates to its RP19.

Daniel Ricciardo had a low-key start to his Renault career as he classified 17th, with McLaren rookie Lando Norris a few tenths further back in 18th spot.

Williams brought up the rear of the pack and was substantially off the pace of its opponents.

Robert Kubica’s best effort was 4.3s slower than Hamilton’s benchmark – and almost two seconds down on nearest rival Norris – while reigning F2 champion George Russell was eight-tenths adrift of his Polish team-mate.

Friday’s second 90-minute practice session will begin at 16:00 local time

Australia - Practice 1

Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
1 Flag   Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.599 26
2 Flag   Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:23.637 0.038 18
3 Flag   Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.673 0.074 18
4 Flag   Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:23.792 0.193 22
5 Flag   Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:23.866 0.267 30
6 Flag   Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1:24.816 1.217 18
7 Flag   Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1:24.832 1.233 20
8 Flag   Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:24.932 1.333 23
9 Flag   Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:24.934 1.335 24
10 Flag   Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1:25.015 1.416 11
11 Flag   Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1:25.166 1.567 23
12 Flag   Romain Grosjean Haas 1:25.224 1.625 18
13 Flag   Alexander Albon Red Bull 1:25.230 1.631 21
14 Flag   Carlos Sainz McLaren 1:25.285 1.686 19
15 Flag   Lance Stroll Racing Point 1:25.288 1.689 26
16 Flag   Sergio Perez Racing Point 1:25.498 1.899 21
17 Flag   Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1:25.634 2.035 16
18 Flag   Lando Norris McLaren 1:25.966 2.367 31
19 Flag   Robert Kubica Williams 1:27.914 4.315 25
20 Flag   George Russell Williams 1:28.740 5.141 25