--
 
Here's why Toyota's Rush is doing so well

Toyota has apparently now completed its utter domination of the SA gravel travel market, writes Lance Branquinho.

The good, bad and ugly of Fernando Alonso's F1 career

'Fernando Alonso is one of the all-time greats', writes Egmont Sippel.

Mercedes sets early pace at 2018 Australian GP practice

2018-03-23 05:11

Image: AFP

Australia - Mercedes sent an early signal that it could again be the team to beat in Formula 1 this season, setting the swiftest times in the first practice session at the season-opening 2018 Australian Grand Prix on Friday.

On a bright, clear day, defending world champion Lewis Hamilton completed the 5.303km Albert Park circuit in 1min 24.026 seconds, a full half-second ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in second.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen posted the third-fastest time of the practice session at 1min24.771, followed closely behind by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in fourth and fifth, respectively.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo trailed the leaders in sixth place, with a fastest lap of 1min25.063.

Friday's first practice times, however, didn't offer a complete picture of where the top teams are in terms of speed. Ferrari didn't make use of its ultrasoft tires during the session, while Red Bull set its fastest times on the supersoft compounds.

McLaren's new season started off with the same misfortunes that have dogged it in recent years, as both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne missed much of the practice session with an exhaust issue in their cars.

Alonso, however, finally set a lap time with less than 20 minutes remaining and eventually improved to a solid eighth place, 1.87 seconds behind Hamilton. Vandoorne was just behind him in 10th place.

The drivers in the middle of the pack after Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari were as tightly grouped as expected with just a second separating Romain Grosjean of Haas in seventh place and Sergio Perez of Force India in 16th position.

2018 Australian Grand Prix: 1st practice times in Melbourne

1. Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-AMG 1min24.026 
2. Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Mercedes-AMG 1min24.577 
3. Max Verstappen (NED) Red Bull 1min24.771 
4. Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari 1min24.875 
5. Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari 1min24.995
 6. Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Red Bull 1min25.063 
7. Romain Grosjean (FRA) Haas 1min25.730 
8. Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren-Honda 1min25.896 
9. Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Renault 1min25.922 
10. Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL) McLaren-Honda 1min26.482 
11. Pierre Gasly (FRA) Toro Rosso 1min26.494 
12. Sergey Sirotkin (RUS) Williams 1min26.536 
13. Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault 1min26.583 
14. Esteban Ocon (FRA) Force India 1min26.605 
15. Lance Stroll (CAN) Williams 1min26.636 
16. Sergio Perez (MEX) Force India 1min26.767 
17. Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas 1min27.035 
18. Brendon Hartley (NZL) Toro Rosso 1min27.745 
19. Marcus Ericsson (SWE) Sauber 1min27.964 
20. Charles Leclerc (MON) Sauber 1min28.853


NEXT ON WHEELS24X

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.