FASTEST IN OZ: Mercedes Nico Rosberg tops the timesheets during the first and second practice sessions ahead of the 2015 Australian GP. Image: AP / Rob Griffith.
MELBOURNE, Australia - Lewis Hamilton expects qualifying for the 2015 Australian GP to be another fierce battle with Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg, after being shaded by a tenth of a second by Rosberg during practice on Friday (March 12).
Mercedes enjoyed the perfect start to the new Formula 1 season, with world runner-up Rosberg pipping champion Hamilton in both sessions, as rival drivers struggled with reliability problems at Albert Park.
Hamilton said: "I would imagine it will be as tight as it always is. It's always going to be between us."
'GREAT DAY FOR MERC'
A substantial gap separated Mercedes from the rest, with Rosberg over seven-tenths of a second quicker than third-placed Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, both Hamilton and his team mate had their complaints.
Both bemoaned the bumpy state of the Melbourne street circuit, which saw drivers struggle with their settings and occasionally spin off the track.
Rosberg hailed a "great day" for the team but said he was yet to find the "balance" of his car.
He said: "Long runs were okay but on short runs, there was much too much over-steer. It's very risky to drive. There's a bit too much of that so we have to work on that.
"The track is difficult, very bumpy, a lot of kerb-riding. It's a special challenge."
The pair raffled 16 out of 19 race wins last season, with only Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo standing in the way of their complete dominance.
Their rivalry lit up the championship but was also combustible and led to lost points at Spa in Belgium in 2014 when the pair collided in an easily avoidable incident.
Hamilton openly questioned whether he could ever trust his team mate again but in the leadup to Albert Park, Rosberg said the pair had a "basic respect" for each other to keep the relationship healthy.
He praised the Mercedes garage as "amazing" for bringing a fast car to Friday practice but was almost gloomy as he mouthed the words, as if being edged by his main rival on the opening day of the season cut him deep.
Rosberg was more ebullient but expected no quarter from Hamilton during qualifying: "With Lewis it's super-close and it's just going to be a battle all the way, I suppose."
Stay with Wheels24 for the 2015 Australian GP weekend!