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Australian GP 2019

MARCH 15, 2019

Practice 1 Report - The right foot

Lewis Hamilton, Australian GP 2019
© RV Press

By Dan Knutson in Melbourne

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes got the new Formula 1 season off on the right foot by clocking the fastest lap in the opening round of practice for the Australian Grand Prix. But Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari were a close second.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc; Red Bull TAG Heuer –Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly; Renault – Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; McLaren Renault – Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris; Racing Point Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll; Alfa Romeo Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi; Toro Rosso Honda – Daniil Kvyat and Alexander Albon; Williams Mercedes – George Russell and Robert Kubica.

Raikkonen was the first driver out on the 16-turn 3.295-mile (5.303 km) Albert Park circuit as the 2019 Formula 1 season officially got underway. Rookie Norris was the second on track.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit (33 degrees Centigrade).

After they had completed their installation laps the drivers headed back to the pit garages, and the circuit fell silent.

Then, 12 minutes into the session, Bottas went to the pit lane exit, did a practice start, and headed out on track. He completed the first flying lap of the season and set a time of 1:26.454 on the medium compound Pirelli tires. He eventually lowered that to a 1:24.679. Hamilton was second, 0.059 of a second off the pace of his teammate.

At the 40-minute break, when each driver has to return one set of tires to Pirelli, the top ten were: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Kvyat, Gasly, Stroll, Leclerc, Magnussen, Vettel and Albon.

Nobody was in a hurry to go back out, and after a dozen minutes the track finally got busy again.

Bottas was on the move as he lowered his best to a 1:23.866 on the soft compound tires. Hamilton, also on the softs, beat that with a 1:23.599.

Verstappen got going in the Red Bull Honda and grabbed second place when he clocked a 1:23.792. But then Ferrari's new boy Leclerc sliced in with a 1:23.673 only to have Vettel undercut with a 1:23.637. All three drivers were on the soft tires.

With 22 minutes remaining, the session was red flagged after Albon spun into the wall at Turn 2. The front wing of the Toro Rosso was ripped off but he was able to drive back to the pits. After four minutes the session restarted.

Bottas slid off in Turn 15, spun the car around to get it pointed in the right direction, narrowly missed clipping a wall, and continued.

The top ten at the end of the first practice session of the year were: Hamilton, Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Bottas, Raikkonen, Kvyat, Gasly, Magnussen and Hulkenberg.