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2016-03-18 10:09

BACK-TO-BACK: Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton set the fastest times in both morning practice sessions for the season-opener in Oz. Image: AFP / Saeed Khan

Melbourne, Australia - World champion Lewis Hamilton dominated the opening free practice sessions of the new Formula 1 season on Friday as his Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg hit early trouble at the Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton made only a cameo appearance in the rain-hit second session but still reeled off the fastest lap, in an ominous sign to his rivals for this weekend's season-opener.

Bad luck for Nico

Hamilton, who was also the pace-setter in first practice, clocked a best lap time of one minute 38.841 seconds in the slippery afternoon track conditions to prove his early superiority ahead of Saturday's qualifying.

But Rosberg, his closest rival last season, struck trouble in second practice when he lost control of the rear end of his Mercedes, aquaplaned and hit the wall at turn seven, damaging the front wing of his car.

The German was told over the team radio, "Pull over please Nico, stop the car" before he brought his mangled vehicle to rest on the grass at Turn 13 to save on any further damage.

The Mercedes team confirmed that Rosberg's car had suffered damage to the new-spec nose.

With the rain upsetting teams' plans right at the start of the new season, Hamilton took up where he left off in last year's championship season of 10 wins out of the 19 races.

Wet track conditions

The Briton stayed in the team garage until late in the second session before uncorking the fastest time on his first flying lap.

That was enough to hold a 0.467sec edge over Germany's Nico Hulkenberg in a Force India and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen as rain made for treacherous driving conditions.

Hamilton clocked 1min29.725 to hold a 0.421 seconds gap over Red Bull pair Daniil Kvyat and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in first practice, which was also held in wet track conditions on the Albert Park street circuit.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who didn't register a time in first practice, was eighth quickest in the second session, but 1.920secs slower than Hamilton.

Rio Haryanto, Indonesia's first-ever F1 racer who had only four weeks preparation in his Manor Racing car, got in 22 laps in second practice and finished in 14th place with 1min44.304.

Clearing conditions are forecast for Saturday's qualifying to determine grid positions for Sunday's Melbourne race.


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