Hamilton easily tops Practice 2 in Melbourne

Hamilton loves his Aldo Costa designed car
Hamilton loves his Aldo Costa designed car

As it has done for the past three years, and now the 4th year in a row, the Aldo Costa designed Mercedes continued to enjoy the upper hand in Friday afternoon's second practice session in Australia, as Lewis Hamilton lapped more than half a second faster than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to top the timesheet once more.

Hamilton slashed 0.6s off his practice 1 best when the field switched to ultrasofts, smashing his 2016 pole position time in the process. Vettel couldn't match the Mercedes driver in dipping below 1m 24s, but managed to split the Silver Arrows after edging Valtteri Bottas by 0.009s.

Kimi Raikkonen was the only other driver to get within a second of Hamilton’s time and was 4th in his Ferrari.

Red Bull lost ground from FP1 as they slipped to fifth and sixth. Home favorite Daniel Ricciardo finished just ahead of Max Verstappen, the Dutchman one of several drivers to survive an off-track moment when he ran very wide over the grass and gravel at Turn 12 but kept his RB13 out of the barriers.

Renault’s Jolyon Palmer ran out of talent, losing the rear of his Renault at the final corner just before the end of the first half hour and bringing out the red flags as hit the wall and rebounded back onto the track.

Vettel gave chase in the Ferrari but was no match for Hamilton on Friday
Vettel gave chase in the Ferrari but was no match for Hamilton on Friday

When running resumed, Felipe Massa’s Williams soon ground to a halt at Turn 10 with gear selection problems, the Brazilian having earlier shown impressive pace on the supersofts. Kevin Magnussen also hit technical trouble with his Haas developing an apparent water pressure issue, while Marcus Ericsson’s session came to a premature end when he oversteered off the road and into the gravel at Turn 6 in the latter stages.

Behind the expected front three teams, the upper midfield was as close as predicted, with Carlos Sainz an excellent seventh for Toro Rosso, ahead of Haas’s Romain Grosjean, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Sainz’s team mate Daniil Kvyat. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon struggled a little in their newly liveried Force Indias, sandwiching Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, which ran reliably to P12 and was not as bad as the pessimists had expected.

Williams rookie Lance Stroll kept out of trouble and amassed mileage in the wake of his team mate’s demise, while Stoffel Vandoorne bagged a similarly valuable haul of laps in the second McLaren.

Right now the advantage appears to lie with Mercedes – or at least with Hamilton – but it remains to be seen whether Ferrari have anything left in their locker as far as qualifying is concerned.

QUOTES

Lewis Hamilton
It's great to be back in Australia and I'm super happy to be back in the car – particularly after a first day like that. It was 99 per cent perfect. After struggling with some issues in Barcelona, we didn't know if we'd have the same thing here. What's really encouraging is that we've arrived at the track just a week later and the car is exactly where it should be. It's feeling great out there and the guys have done a fantastic job. We've shown good form so far on both the long and short runs and we got every lap done that we wanted to. The tires performed really well today too. Coming into today, we really didn't know where we'd be. We knew from FP1 that the Ferrari's weren't at their maximum. Of course, in FP2 all of a sudden they were quick. We'll see tomorrow how it really stands. I feel very much at home in Melbourne. There's always a great buzz here and a lot of support. I'm just really happy to see everyone and receive their positive energy. I'll be pushing as hard as I can to win this race.

Valtteri Bottas
It was great to be back on track after Barcelona and overall it was a good day today. We still have work to do with the car balance but we got all of our running completed without any issues. From my side I definitely feel like I can make a step forward tomorrow. It'll be a busy evening for us tonight looking through all the data to see where we can improve but it's a reasonable start. In terms of our pace, it is only practice, so tomorrow we'll find out exactly where we are. These tire compounds are the right choice for this race. The softer compounds all felt good. Everyone is pushing to the limit, as we saw a few times out there today. This track is always quite dirty at the start of the weekend, but we'll get used to it.

James Allison, Mercedes Technical Director
It always seems like a bit of a cliche to say that we were pleased to get through our program smoothly. But in the first practice sessions of a new season – particularly under new regulations like these – it's especially important to achieve that and also to leave the car intact for Saturday. On both counts, I think we can say that today was a smooth day. Our program focused on trying out the various tire compounds that we have available this weekend to see what kind of pace and degradation we can expect from them. We also worked to ensure the car has a reasonable balance with race fuel and lower fuel. Our long run pace looked decent but it's harder to tell where we stand at this stage in terms of single lap pace. We'll find out tomorrow. Overall the car seems strong, so we're looking forward to seeing what we can do with it.

Sebastian Vettel
Overall [the first day has] been OK, but we had some small troubles during first practice, which cost us some track time. My car doesn't feel as good as it should or can, so I'm confident we can do something. Obviously we were very happy during testing, but it doesn't mean anything. I think the car feels good, it hasn't changed much, but we can still improve. I think nothing is certain. There is a lot of work ahead of us and the car seems to work well. We’ve done a lot of laps, so I think we can be happy but there is no certainties. Nothing has to be taken for granted and the year is long, it’s still March. I don’t know which expectations we have from the outside but inside we have none. We hope to be very high up. That’s our target and we know there’s a lot of work ahead of us. We will focus on the single steps and we have to keep pushing.

Daniel Ricciardo
We looked pretty strong this morning and then we tried a few things this afternoon but I don’t think they worked in our favor. I’d like to learn a bit more from this afternoon’s session and then if we could pull all of that together with the strength of this morning I’ll be happy. Mercedes sure is quick but it’s more Lewis at the moment than Valtteri, who looks like he’s more in the group of Ferrari. I think we can be there as well. Pole might be a stretch but I think we can be in that next little group with the right set-up and the right lap in quali. If Lewis does the perfect lap then that’ll be a challenge to take the pole away from him but we’re not too far off. You certainly feel more traction with the new tires. I thought the times would have been quicker though; this morning I felt a big chunk of grip but I was expecting low twenties. There is still time to improve tomorrow. I think the wind changes so that’ll make a quicker lap time but the traction is nice. It felt awesome to be out on the track this morning, I just felt I was back in my happy place and it was cool to already see so many fans on a Friday. It’s also a circuit I enjoy because it’s a fun layout. I think we can have a very good weekend from here.

Max Verstappen
Today was about trying to find and improve the balance of the car after getting out on track for the first Friday practice of the year. We are about where I expected us to be, we have some work to do overnight to make sure we are in a good position for tomorrow and can get the best out of the car. It was nice to try the RB13 for the first time here at Albert Park, it definitely felt faster and a bit more enjoyable through the corners, being a street circuit it will improve by qualifying quite a lot which means more fun for us. I ran wide and ended up on the grass which unfortunately damaged the floor and cut short the second session for me. Mercedes seem quick once again so they are the target to beat but we must also do some work overnight to be ahead of Ferrari who also look strong. Hopefully we will have a good start on Sunday, then we are at the front and can make it hard to overtake.

Paddy Lowe, Williams Chief Technical Officer
It was a day of two halves! We had a great session this morning, the first practice session of Lance’s Formula One career. He did a great job of taking it step-by-step, doing some good laps whilst getting familiar with a circuit he has never driven on before. He made steady progress throughout the session. On Felipe’s side of the garage, there was also some good running on both high and low fuel, and different tires with encouraging pace. In FP2, unfortunately it wasn’t so good on Felipe’s side. We had an electrical problem which stopped the car on the circuit and brought his session to an end very early. We know the issue so it will be resolved easily overnight. He did get one run on the supersoft tires before stopping, but unfortunately we missed out on the long runs. Meanwhile, Lance had another good session and we got good data from him on high fuel and we’ll be working with all of that information overnight.

Felipe Massa
It’s not really the great day we were expecting and unfortunately I couldn’t finish the second session; I only did six laps. The track was still a little bit dirty and then suddenly we had this issue in the car. I went into neutral and couldn’t select any gears, which meant that I lost the opportunity to try the ultrasoft tires and do any long runs. It’s a shame that we did thousands of kilometres in Barcelona and then had this issue here, but I don’t think it’s a serious thing, which is positive. We need to concentrate 100% tomorrow and I really hope things can go the right way.

Lance Stroll
For me it was a good day. I did some laps and was just learning the track. It feels good to just finally break the ice and do some driving, especially as it has been quite a long build-up as I got here early to acclimatise. It is not a track I have been to before, so I can’t just go out and push to the limit. I have to build up to it, which is what I was doing today, and still leaving a bit of a margin. There is not a lot of room for error on this track, but it is fun and so far I have really enjoyed driving it. FP2 was quite a scruffy session for me. The first run was alright, but then on the second one it was a shame as there was a yellow flag so I had to abort the lap, which meant we missed out on that one lap on the ultrasofts we wanted. However, today were just the first practice sessions. I think I can still improve as I am learning a lot, and there is still a lot to understand.

Practice 2 Results

POS NO DRIVER CAR TIME Behind LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:23.620 +0.000s 34
2 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:24.167 +0.547s 35
3 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:24.176 +0.556s 34
4 7 Kimi Räikkönen FERRARI 1:24.525 +0.905s 30
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:24.650 +1.030s 27
6 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING TAG HEUER 1:25.013 +1.393s 8
7 55 Carlos Sainz TORO ROSSO 1:25.084 +1.464s 34
8 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:25.436 +1.816s 29
9 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:25.478 +1.858s 36
10 26 Daniil Kvyat TORO ROSSO 1:25.493 +1.873s 39
11 11 Sergio Perez FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:25.591 +1.971s 35
12 14 Fernando Alonso MCLAREN HONDA 1:26.000 +2.380s 19
13 31 Esteban Ocon FORCE INDIA MERCEDES 1:26.145 +2.525s 37
14 19 Felipe Massa WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:26.331 +2.711s 6
15 9 Marcus Ericsson SAUBER FERRARI 1:26.498 +2.878s 29
16 18 Lance Stroll WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:26.525 +2.905s 27
17 2 Stoffel Vandoorne MCLAREN HONDA 1:26.608 +2.988s 33
18 94 Pascal Wehrlein SAUBER FERRARI 1:26.919 +3.299s 30
19 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:27.279 +3.659s 8
20 30 Jolyon Palmer RENAULT 1:27.549 +3.929s 4

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