All the talk in the build up to Melbourne was of Ferrari being the team to beat, however, in Friday’s first practice that proved to be Mercedes.
Heading out on to a warm Albert Park circuit, at least 20′ hotter than what the teams experienced in testing, it was Valtteri Bottas who came to the fore.
The Finn set the day’s first flying lap and held onto P1 throughout the first hour of play.
But with new Pirellis bolted to his W10, Lewis Hamilton ventured out for a second run and a first P1 of the campaign.
The Brit posted a 1:23.599 while moments later Sebastian Vettel also upped his pace to go second, 0.038s down.
Charles Leclerc followed his team-mate up the order as he finished a further 0.036s off the pace.
Max Verstappen was fourth for Red Bull Racing while Bottas dropped to fifth – and had a close encounter with the wall
He spun to work his way out of an escape road and missed the wall by a hair’s breadth.
— PurePitWall (@PurePitWall) March 15, 2019
The top five drivers were separated by just 0.267s!
Kimi Raikkonen was best of the rest for Alfa Romeo, finishing P6 and ahead of Daniil Kvyat, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.
Meanwhile Alexander Albon had the dubious honour of being the first official crasher of the 2019 F1 season.
The Toro Rosso rookie got it wrong at Turn 2, spun and hit the barrier taking off his front wing while also causing slight damage to the rear of the car.
He was able to limp back to the pits.
🚩 RED FLAG 🚩
Rookie Alexander Albon spins into the barrier at Turn 2
📻: "Take it easy, take it easy, you have no front wing…"
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 15, 2019
He wasn’t the only driver in trouble on Friday in Melbourne as an electronic issue kept Hulkenberg in the garage throughout the first half of the session.
Renault were able to reset the car and he managed 11 laps in the final half an hour of FP1.
— Renault F1 Team (@RenaultF1Team) March 15, 2019
Down at Williams, driving the FW42 seemed to be a bit of a struggle with minor offs for both Robert Kubica and George Russell as they fought the car.
They finished P19 and 20 with Kubica, the fastest Williams man, two seconds slower than Lando Norris in P18.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.599 26 laps
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 0.038s 18 laps
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.074s 18 laps
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.193s 22 laps
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 0.267s 30 laps
6 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1.217s 18 laps
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1.233s 30 laps
8 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1.333s 23 laps
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.335s 24 laps
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1.416s 11 laps
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.567s 23 laps
12 Romain Grosjean Haas 1.625s 18
13 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 1.631s 21 laps
14 Carlos Sainz McLaren 1.686s 19 laps
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1.689s 26 laps
16 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1.899s 21 laps
17 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 2.035s 16 laps
18 Lando Norris McLaren 2.367s 31 laps
19 Robert Kubica Williams 4.315s 25 laps
20 George Russell Williams 5.141s 25 laps
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