MELBOURNE, Australia — Lewis Hamilton proved that the Mercedes Silver Arrows will be every bit of the threat in 2017 that they have been the last three years on the Formula One grid, topping both Friday practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s fastest lap — and the fastest of the day — came on Pirelli’s ultrasoft tires in the second session, as he smashed his early time by six tenths of a second and lapped better than his pole time from one year ago at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.
The three-time World Champion posted a best time of 1:23.620, sitting atop the overall time sheets over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and new teammate Valtteri Bottas.
“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,” Hamilton said. “It was 99 percent 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,” Hamilton added. “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.”
Having looked mighty quick on the soft tires, Hamilton slashed six-tenths of a second off his FP1 best when the field switched to ultra softs, smashing his 2016 pole position time in the process.
Vettel couldn’t match the Mercedes driver in dipping below the one minute, 24 second mark, but managed to split the Silver Arrows after edging Valtteri Bottas by 0.009 of a second.
Kimi Raikkonen looked a little scruffier than his teammate in the second SF70H, but was the only other driver to get within a second of Hamilton’s marker.
Red Bull lost ground from FP1 as they slipped to fifth and sixth. Home favourite 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 was less lucky, 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 he hit the wall and rebounded back onto the track.
Practice results can be viewed on the next page…