Mercedes on top after Friday practice in Melbourne
Hamilton fastest in both sessions on Friday (Photo credit: Clive Mason, Getty Images)

Mercedes on top after Friday practice in Melbourne

Lewis Hamilton showed Mercedes’ speed after topping both Friday practice sessions ahead of the Australian grand prix.

James Cowen

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in FP1 by a small margin, although in second practice was eight tenths quicker than third-placed Max Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas in the second silver arrow only set the fifth quickest time in first practice, although improved in the second session to set a time just slower than Hamilton’s.

It was an impressive showing from the German team, who had been regularly off the pace on the run-up to the 2019 season.

Ferrari and Red Bull sandbagging?

Despite the ominous form Ferrari showed in testing, the Italian team lost out on setting the fastest time in FP1, with both drivers just a tenth down on Hamilton.

However, in the second practice session, the team were further away from Mercedes’ pace.

Sebastian Vettel ended FP2 fifth quickest, with Charles Leclerc, who had a spin after exiting turn four, down in ninth.

Red Bull were also close to Hamilton’s pace in FP1 after Verstappen set a time just two tenths slower, with the team closest to Mercedes in FP2.

However, newly promoted Red Bull driver Pierre Gasly suffered a power loss issue in the second session, although his engine has been given the all clear ahead of qualifying.

Despite Red Bull and Ferrari off the pace in the second practice session, it is likely that both teams were sandbagging their true performance ahead of Saturday.

Close between the midfield

Kimi Raikkonen impressed for Alfa Romeo, with the Finn ending both practice sessions sixth quickest and showing good form in his new car.

It was good pace from the team, who also had a strong pre-season test on the run-up to the 2019 season.

Although down the order in first practice, Renault picked up the pace heading into the second session, with both Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo going seventh and eighth quickest.

The team-mates were equally matched, which could set up a close qualifying battle between the pair come Saturday.

Daniil Kvyat also looked strong in his Toro Rosso, finishing in the top 10 in FP1 using the medium tyres, although just missed out on beating Romain Grosjean’s time in FP2, ending the session 11th fastest.

Fellow driver Alexander Albon, however, could only end FP1 13th fastest after a crash at turn two which lost him his front wing, and FP2 17th quickest.

McLaren struggled for pace, with Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris outside of the top 10 in both sessions, with Racing Point also down the order as well.

Williams continued their struggles from pre-season testing, with both Robert Kubica and George Russell slowest in both practice sessions.