Formula 1 delivered on its promise to up the pace as Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in the first FP1 of the season in Melbourne, 5.5 seconds faster than last year’s P1 time.
Last season Hamilton set the pace in FP1 for the Australian Grand Prix with a 1:29.725.
This season his opening gambit on the supersofts was a 1:26.4.
By the time he clocked his best lap on the ultras he was down to a 1:24.220.
His new team-mate Valtteri Bottas was second fastest on the ultras as Mercedes claimed the 1-2. Bottas’ best was 0.583s off the pace.
Red Bull Racing were third and fourth with Daniel Ricciardo ahead of Max Verstappen. Both drivers set their best times on the soft Pirellis and were 0.666 and 1.026s down respectively.
Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were next in line with Ferrari’s pace somewhat disappointing given their performance in pre-season testing.
Many believed Ferrari could be the team to beat this season but Raikkonen, who was quickest in testing, was 1.152s off the pace. Vettel a further tenth down.
Felipe Massa, returning to F1 after an extremely brief retirement, was seventh ahead of Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz.
There were, as predicted, issues over at McLaren-Honda as Stoffel Vandoorne was sidelined with water pressure loss.
Out on track just past the midway point of the session the Belgian racer was six seconds off the pace.
He improved to a 1:28.8 but still finished slowest of all, 4.5s down on Hamilton’s pace-setting time.
Fernando Alonso, who managed 18 laps, was P14 with a best time of 1:27.116.
There were issues for Esteban Ocon, who lost track time with a brake problem, and Jolyon Palmer, whose broken transmission meant he covered just six laps.
1 Lewis Hamilton 1:24.220 22 laps
2 Valtteri Bottas 1:24.803 25 laps
3 Daniel Ricciardo 1:24.886 19 laps
4 Max Verstappen 1:25.246 19 laps
5 Kimi Raikkonen 1:25.372 16 laps
6 Sebastian Vettel 1:25.464 10 laps
7 Felipe Massa 1:26.142 28 laps
8 Romain Grosjean 1:26.168 20 laps
9 Nico Hulkenberg 1:26.183 15 laps
10 Sergio Perez 1:26.276 29 laps
11 Carlos Sainz 1:26.450 24 laps
12 Daniil Kvyat 1:26.514 25 laps
13 Lance Stroll 1:26.734 29 laps
14 Fernando Alonso 1:27.116 18 laps
15 Marcus Ericsson 1:27.348 30 laps
16 Esteban Ocon 1:27.656 23 laps
17 Kevin Magnussen 1:27.667 20 laps
18 Pascal Wehrlein 1:28.539 22 laps
19 Jolyon Palmer 1:28.585 6 laps
20 Stoffel Vandoorne 1:28.695 14 laps