Lewis Hamilton tops timesheets in opening practice

Melbourne VIC, Australia Published: Mar 23, 2018, 07:48 AM(IST)

A file photo Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Champion Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes in both practice sessions at the Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday but Red Bull`s Max Verstappen showed enough pace to give the Silver Arrows pause for thought.

After lapping Albert Park in one minute 24.026 seconds during FP1, Briton Hamilton improved the mark slightly to 1:23.931 in the second session on a balmy autumn day.

Red Bull`s Dutch wunderkind Verstappen was snapping at Hamilton`s heels, however, and finished only 0.127 seconds adrift of the four-times champion after FP2.

Verstappen sandwiched himself between the Mercedes drivers, with Hamilton`s team mate Valtteri Bottas third quickest despite taking a couple of slides off the track.

Ferrari`s Kimi Raikkonen was fourth in FP2 but will have to face the stewards after Bottas nearly rammed into his rear and ended up in the gravel.

It was a less encouraging day for Ferrari`s four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, who was more than a half-second off the pace in FP2 in fifth position, while Red Bull`s home hope Daniel Ricciardo battled to seventh.

There will be a buzz around the Haas garage, however, as Romain Grosjean was sixth quickest in FP2 and his team mate Kevin Magnussen ninth.

After battling an exhaust system problem for much of FP1, Renault-powered McLaren showed encouraging signs with twice world champion Fernando Alonso eventually lapping eighth and holding the position in the later session.

Canadian Lance Stroll`s day ended in frustration, with his Williams forced to a halt at the end of FP2 with overheating issues. He was 14th for the session, ahead of his debutant team mate Sergey Sirotkin (18th).

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