Hamilton and Bottas impress as Mercedes start strongly in Melbourne

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton fired an ominous warning to his title rivals after the five-time world champion was fastest in both practice sessions at the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix on Friday.

Hamilton caught the eye in Friday’s first run and he led the field again at the second time of asking, finishing 0.048 seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Mercedes’ dominance was shown by the fact Hamilton was eight-tenths of a second faster than Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was third quickest.

The Red Bull cars also appeared quick, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly finishing fourth quickest, but the Ferrari’s did not have the pace many expected.

Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world title winner, was fifth fastest, while Charles Leclerc finished ninth.

The second session was much kinder to local favourite Daniel Ricciardo, who improved from 17th fastest to eighth.

Ricciardo’s best lap time was just over one second off the pace.

The Australian was the last driver to hit the track, though, exiting his garage for the first time 30 minutes into the session.

Leclerc ended his session roughly, mounting the exit kerb at Turn 4 and spinning his SF9, although his car suffered no damage, while rookies Alexander Albon and Antonio Giovinazzi both spun out at Turn 15.

One of the session’s more impressive performances came from new Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen, who was sixth quickest.

Formula 1® returns on Saturday for the final hour-long practice session at 2:00pm before the cars prepare for the first qualifying session of the season at 5:00pm on the 5.3-kilometre Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit.

Limited tickets are still available for the Formula 1® Rolex Australian Grand Prix 2019. The event runs from 14-17 March at Melbourne’s iconic Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit.

Follow the Action