By James Galloway in Melbourne
Last Updated: 15/03/19 2:38am
Lewis Hamilton topped the first F1 practice session of the new season as Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull proved very-closely matched in the early froes of the Australian GP weekend.
Mercedes and Ferrari were split by less than a tenth of a second, with Max Verstappen just an additional tenth back for Red Bull.
Hamilton’s pacesetting time of 1:23.599 was a mere 0.038s quicker than perennial Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, with Charles Leclerc right behind his new team-mate in third.
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Verstappen’s early pace in the new Red Bull-Honda also gives the new partnership encouragement heading into the remainder of the weekend.
Valtteri Bottas was fifth in the second Mercedes, with his session including running off the road at the penultimate corner.
P1: Bottas’ sector 3 spin
Kimi Raikkonen was a promising sixth-quickest for the Alfa Romeo team, with the returning Daniil Kvyat seventh for Toro Rosso.
But Williams’ expected early-season struggles appeared to be laid bare in Practice One as their two cars trailed over four seconds off the pace.
After delays to the team’s testing programme were followed by technical boss Paddy Lowe taking a leave of absence, Williams finished 19th and 20th in the opening session.
Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon spun and hit the wall during Practice 1, leading to the session being red flagged.
Toro Rosso rookie Alex Albon, meanwhile, became the first driver to hit the barriers in the new season when he span out mid-way through the session. The British-born driver broke his car’s front wing, although was able to drive back to the team’s pit box.
More to followâ€¦
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