Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton get down to business taking first practice session of the season
By: S. Harding, Xiro Xone News March 23, 2018 Updated: 8:21 AM PT
MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton kicked off the first practice of the 2018 Formula One season by finishing on top as the four-time world champion prepares to defend his title.
Hamilton set a time of 1:24.026 on the the ultra-soft tire (Purple band) just 0.551s ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas in second to complete the Mercedes one-two.
“Coming to the first race, you really have no idea what it’s going to be like. You don’t how you’re going to feel physically, you don’t know how the tyres are going to react to the circuit. But we started on the right foot today, we got through everything we needed,” a relaxed Hamilton said.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen finished third ahead Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in fourth and fifth.
Vettel started his runs on the soft tire (Yellow band) and ended the session on the super-soft tire (Red band) leaving him 0.969s behind Hamilton.
“It looks like we are close, which is good news, so we should be able to do something tomorrow. This track is particularly tricky, in that if you don’t nail it at first, then there is quite of bit of lap time to be found, and I think we still have much potential to extract,” said Vettel.
Daniel Ricciardo took sixth as he hopes to have a productive weekend at his home race. Seventh went to Romain Grosjean for Haas as the American team enter their third year in F1.
“I got a good feel for the car and I think tomorrow is going to be wet so I don’t know how relevant today will be. Looking at the times it’s nice to see that everyone seems to be pretty close and hopefully that’s the reality. It would be great if the top three teams and even Haas can be close as it would be a pretty nice start to the new season,” said Ricciardo.
Fernando Alonso finished eighth but his session was hindered when the team had to address an issue with his exhaust system, an issue the team also ran into during pre-season testing.
Renault’s Carlos Sainz finished ninth and was 0.026 behind his fellow countryman. Sainz begins his first year with the French team after joining Renault during the second half of the 2017 season.
Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne took tenth with Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly in 11th. Sergey Sirotkin, who starts his rookie season with Williams, finished 12th ahead of Sainz’ Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg in 13th.
Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished 0.022s ahead of Lance Stroll in 14th, who begins his second season for Williams. Sergio Perez finished 15th after spending almost 30 minutes in the garage as the team worked to solve an issue with his car. Force India appeared to struggle in the first practice session. Kevin Magnussen finished 1.305s off his teammate in 17th for Haas.
Brendon Hartley finished 18th with Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and rookie teammate Charles Leclerc in 19th and 20th.