Australian Grand Prix – Lewis Hamilton made the ideal start to his championship defence by setting the pace ahead of Sebastian Vettel in free practice one.
With the wait for the start of the 2019 season finally over, the Mercedes man put his team on the front foot by registering the fastest lap of the opening practice session; a 1:23.599.
Hamilton’s lap was less than one tenth of a second faster than the Ferrari duo of Vettel and Charles Leclerc, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen just two tenths off the bets time. The second Red Bull of Pierre Gasly was unable to set a representative lap time, finishing eighth.
The second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas finished fifth – with all of the top five using the soft-compound tyre – and the Finn was visibly pushing the limits of the track.
Touching the edge of the grass on entry to the penultimate corner, Bottas briefly got crossed up, lost control of the car and skated off the track, narrowly avoiding the barrier.
Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen finished at the forefront of the midfield with a time that was 1.2 seconds off the paces, ahead of Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Gasly.
Haas’ Kevin Magunssen was ninth, ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who finished tenth despite only having around twenty minutes of running. Renault’s aims of hitting the ground running were dealt a blow when they found an electronics issue on Nico Hulkenberg’s R.S.19.
Alexander Albon had the unwanted honour of causing the first red flag of the 2019 season when he crashed on the exit of turn two.
The Toro Rosso driver lost control of his car and struck the outside wall with the rear of his car, which then spun the car around to cause a collision with the front-end of the car, too.
He was able to return to the pits, but his car was out of action for the final half-hour of the session.