Lewis Hamilton clocks fastest time in Australian Grand Prix opening practice

Lewis Hamilton clocks fastest time in Australian Grand Prix opening practice

After pipping Vettel with a lap of 1 minute, 23.599 seconds in the first practice, Hamilton shaved nearly a second off that in FP2, his quickest lap clocked at 1:22.600.

Lewis Hamilton, with a 1m 22.600s, bested teammate Valtteri Bottas by just 0.048 seconds with the red-marked soft tyre, but such was the Briton and his team's superiority that even his lap on the slower medium-compound rubber would've been enough to have him lead the session.

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff on Friday said he had no problem with star driver Lewis Hamilton's passion for extreme sports, despite the injury risk to such a lucrative asset.

Kimi Raikkonen was strong on his Alfa Romeo debut, splitting Vettel from Renault teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, the triumvirate around a second off Hamilton's pace.

Ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, Hamilton said it was "not hard to read" Mercedes' testing form, and insisted the team wasn't playing mind games with its pre-season estimations.

Renault's Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo were seventh and eighth, closely matched after the Australian had a tricky day with a number of delays, first due to a technical problem and then the need to adjust his seat to reduce discomfort in the auto. "They are still the team to beat - we are just trying to improve and go as fast as we can".

Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said Hamilton's activities outside of Formula One - skydiving and his fashion brand - were not a "negative distraction".

"They've shown good reliability in pre-season testing which tells you they can turn the engine up a bit more perhaps". The forecast is for warmer conditions for Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.

The German said afterwards it had been "a tricky day".

He said: "It's a long season, so I don't particularly feel it's the most important thing".

"If we can get that confidence and that groove back, there is a lot of lap time in that around here", he added. He slid onto the gravel again in session two and skidded onto the grass.

Alex Albon was 17th, one place behind the second Racing Point of Sergio Perez, and followed up his FP1 crash with a run through the gravel mid-season then a similar spin to Giovinazzi's late on.

In between, FIA President Jean Todt and Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey attended a news conference with started with a minute of silence in memory of race director Charlie Whiting, who died in Melbourne on Thursday from a pulmonary embolism.

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