Lewis Hamilton struck the first blow of Formula 1 2018 as he outpaced Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by half a second in the first free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was the first car to hit the track as he led the initial burst of installation runs, but it took 20 minutes for anyone to set a time.
The first flying lap came from Williams rookie Sergey Sirotkin, but his 1m32.057s did not stand as the benchmark for long. Within five minutes the big teams began to make their mark, with Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas briefly going quickest before the Red Bulls hit the front.
Max Verstappen twice grabbed P1 from teammate Daniel Ricciardo – interrupted by Hamilton's first spell atop the times – and Verstappen was the first driver to dip below the 1m25s mark on a 1m24.959s.
Hamilton stamped his authority on the session not long after the half-hour mark, first lapping 0.022s quicker than Verstappen and then improving to 1m24.531s.
After a mid-session break for all 10 teams, Bottas emerged on a new set of ultrasofts and lapped 0.046s slower than Hamilton, but the four-time champion re-established a commanding lead with a 1m24.026s to go over half a second clear.
Bottas could not get any closer to Hamilton over the rest of the session, and although Verstappen improved his time after switching to supersofts, third and 0.745s off the pace was the best Red Bull could manage.
Ferrari split the two Red Bulls and occupied fourth and fifth place, with Raikkonen using soft tyres to lap a tenth quicker than Vettel, who made a mistake on his first flying lap on supersofts but improved on his second.
Ricciardo ended the session sixth fastest, a quarter of a second behind Verstappen but comfortably clear of an ultra-tight midfield headed by Romain Grosjean.
Haas looked strong in pre-season testing and Grosjean continued that form in Australia by lapping 1.7s slower than Hamilton on a 1m25.730s – as a second covered the Frenchman in seventh to Sergio Perez's Force India in 16th.
Fernando Alonso ended up slightly slower than Grosjean after McLaren recovered from a difficult start to FP1 to end up with both cars in the top 10.
Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne spent most of the first hour in the garage – Alonso suffered an exhaust problem while Vandoorne was largely absent save for a run that featured a "driveability" issue.
When Alonso emerged for proper running in the final half an hour he made quick progress up the order and eventually settled into eighth on a 1m25.896s, on supersofts, but would have been faster without a scruffy final sector.
Vandoorne used soft tyres to rise to 10th, half a second behind Alonso, as Carlos Sainz's supersoft-shod Renault split the MCL33s.
Rookie Sirotkin outpaced Williams teammate Lance Stroll by a tenth, with Pierre Gasly recording the 11th fastest time on his Albert Park debut for Toro Rosso-Honda.
Nico Hulkenberg was 13th quickest, 0.6s adrift of Renault teammate Sainz, but ahead of the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Perez – who were split by Stroll.
Kevin Magnussen (Haas), Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) and the Saubers of Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc completed the timesheet.
2018 Australian GP FP1 results
|3||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||26||1'24.771||0.745|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||25||1'25.063||1.037|
|9||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Renault||Renault||23||1'25.922||1.896|
|11||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||Honda||25||1'26.494||2.468|
|14||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||30||1'26.605||2.579|
|16||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||26||1'26.767||2.741|
|18||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso||Honda||16||1'27.745||3.719|