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Australian GP 2018

MARCH 22, 2018

Practice 1 Report - The first and the fastest

By Dan Knutson in Melbourne

First out on track for the first practice session of the 2018 season was Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel.

Fastest at the end of the first practice session of the 2018 season was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes –Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin; McLaren Renault – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz; Toro Rosso Honda – Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Charles Leclerc.

The fans in Melbourne, of course, are cheering for Ricciardo in his home grand prix.

"Starting the F1 season in Australia means there is so much hype and so much build up, now with me being the only Australian on the grid there is extra attention, extra questioning and expectation," he said. "It's a lot but it's fun, it's cool but it does mean I usually leave that weekend needing 48 hours of pure serenity and quietness.

"Getting in the RB14 for the first time was really sweet, hearing it fire up and seeing it with the new bodywork gets you excited for the year. The RB14 compared to the RB13 at this stage last year is a lot different, to start with, getting into the car is a lot harder. There is a fair bit of aerodynamic change this year, real enthusiasts will see it straight away and spot the differences, the main one being the shark fins have gone and obviously the addition of the halo.

"I can't wait to get the season started, I'm hanging out to get back on the track and these new cars are very fast."

The one who got the season started in Melbourne was Vettel who headed out first onto the 16-turn 3.295-mile (5.303 km) Albert Park track. It turned into a Ferrari "podium" on the out lap as the Ferrari-powered Haas of Grosjean and Ferrari-powered Sauber of Ericsson were out next.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Centigrade).

Pirelli's slick tire compound choices for the weekend were the soft, super soft and ultra soft.

It may be a new season, but the same old procedures remain: the drivers did an install lap or two and headed back to the pits.

Rookie Sirotkin turned the first flying lap of the season, setting a time of 1:32.057 followed by a 1:29.342. It became a Williams one/two as Stroll posted a 1:29.403.

The aforementioned Ricciardo then sliced that down to a 1:27.608.

Now things started to heat up on track as Bottas got down to a 1:26.499. He and most of the drivers were on the ultra softs with te purple sidewalls.

Verstappen, Max Verstappen, lowered the bar to 1:26.007. Hamilton then beat that with his 1:25.694. Verstappen responded with a 1:24.959. Hamilton shaded that with a 1:24.914 followed by a 1:24.531.

At the 40-minute break, when the drivers must return a set of tires to Pirelli, the top 10 were: Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Vettel, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Perez and Stroll.

The McLaren drivers, meanwhile, had only done a couple of installation laps. There were problems with the exhaust systems.

The usual lull followed the break and then the teams slowly resumed their on-track activities. Bottas got up to speed, moving into second place on the timing screens on his 1:24.577. Hamilton speeded up as well, lowering his time to a 1:24.147 and then a 1:24.026.

Others were going faster as well. Grosjean got up to seventh ahead of Sainz, Gasly and Sirotkin with 15 minutes remaining.

Then Alonso popped up to eighth and Vandoorne to tenth

At the end of the first practice session the top 10 were: Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Alonso, Sainz and Vandoorne.