Motorsport

Australian Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest

Vroom...! Lewis Hamilton easily clocked the fastest times in the season's opening practice runs.   | Photo Credit: ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE

Lewis Hamilton made a mockery of his claim that Ferrari would be half-a-second quicker at the Australian Grand Prix by easily clocking the fastest times in the season's opening practice runs on Friday.

The Briton led a Mercedes one-two in the second session as he powered round Melbourne's Albert Park circuit under clear skies with a best of one minute 22.600 seconds. It bettered his pace-setting 1:23.599 in the opening practice as he kick-started his bid for a sixth world title.

Valtteri Bottas was second (1:22.648) with Red Bull's Max Verstappen third (1:23.400), marginally ahead of impressive new teammate Pierre Gasly, who was promoted this year from Toro Rosso.

Sebastian Vettel, who has won in Melbourne for the past two years, could only manage fifth, nearly a second adrift of archrival Hamilton, while Ferrari partner Charles Leclerc struggled to ninth, straddling the kerb and spinning as he pushed hard late in the day.

The man Leclerc replaced, Finnish former World champion Kimi Raikkonen, pushed his Alfa Romeo — formerly Sauber — into sixth.

The Renaults of Niko Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo were sixth and seventh respectively.

Hamilton is gunning for a third world crown in a row to close in on Michael Schumacher's all-time record of seven.

Much had been made of his insistence after pre-season testing in Barcelona that Ferrari was much faster, but he quickly put that fallacy to bed as he angles for an 84th pole position.

There was some speculation in the paddock that Ferrari may have been sandbagging, or deliberately holding back ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

Vettel slid onto the grass at turn one early in the afternoon run.

Toro Rosso new boy Alexander Albon had a troubled introduction to Formula One, losing his front wing in a crash at turn two in the first practice. He slid onto the gravel again in session two and skidded onto the grass.

It was also a frustrating day for Poland's Robert Kubica, in his first Formula One drive since his right arm was partially severed in a horror rallying accident eight years ago.

His best time of 1:26.655 for Williams was slowest on a day.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 12:09:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/motorsport/australian-grand-prix-hamilton-fastest/article26546910.ece

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