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HAMILTON ON TOP IN MELBOURNE

Lewis Hamilton has started his quest for a fourth Formula 1 Drivers’ title by topping the opening Practice session of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.

The British driver lapped the circuit in 1m24.220s, to finish the session 0.6s clear of new teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Finn appears to have settled into the Mercedes team well, and the men in silver completed 22 and 25 laps, respectively, without any major problems.

Third fastest was Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian driver was late to get into the action, and he and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen waited until almost mid-session before taking to the Melbourne track. Both completed only 19 laps, Red Bull boss Christian Horner admitting that saving engine mileage was already a priority, even in the opening race of the season.

However, neither Red Bull driver used any Ultra Soft tyres, so the gap to the silver cars was quite a bit closer than the gaps indicate.

Vestappen was fourth fastest behind Ricciardo, and ahead of Kimi Raikkinen – who kept ahead of his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel. Again, mileage was at a premium – Vettel completed only 10 laps, his cause not helped by having to get a fix for his DRS system.

Felipe Massa was seventh, and the two-by-two order was disrupted by Romain Grosjean, who was an impressive eighth in the Haas.

Nico Hulkenburg was an encouraging ninth fastest in his Renault while Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10 in his bright pink Force Indi.

The second Free Practice session with start at 1600, Melbourne (Daylight Saving) Time.