Australian GP 2017

MARCH 24, 2017

Practice 1 Report - A new era dawns

Lewis Hamilton, Australian GP 2017
© RV Press


By Dan Knutson in Melbourne

"It's the dawn of a new era in more ways than one," Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff before practice began for the first race of the season. "This is the first time that Formula 1 has changed the rules to make the cars faster. We have new management looking at how we take the sport forward. And, in our team, we have seen some significant changes of personnel over the winter. It's been a busy few months, no doubt. But an extremely exciting time, too.

"The target with these new regulations was to make this generation of F1 cars the quickest in the history of the sport. And looking at the results from testing, we're well on the way to achieving that. It's something that's never been done before and that's a radical change. We've even made them look more spectacular."

Quicker indeed. In FP1 last year Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time with a 1:29.725 in his Mercedes. The track was wet for much of that session, however. In the dry this year he was fastest again with lap time of 1:24.220.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 81 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Centigrade.) There was 0 percent chance of rain.

The lineup 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 - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Grosjean and Vettel were the first drivers to head out on the 16-turn 3.295-mile [5.303-km] Albert Park circuit as the 2017 Formula 1 season officially got underway.

Pirelli had its ultra soft, super soft and soft compound slicks available for the drivers.

All the drivers did an installation lap or two and headed back to the garages for checks on the cars. Nobody was in a hurry to get back out.

Twenty minutes into the session, Stroll went on track to get in some laps, and he clocked the first lap time of FP1 with a 1:33.380. Other drivers soon joined him, and Ricciardo quickly lowered things down to a 1:28.994. Perez beat that with a 1:27.588.

Hamilton topped that with a 1:26.478 and then with a 1:25.535.

With just over 30 minutes gone, the order was: Hamilton, Ricciardo, Bottas, Perez, Raikkonen, Massa, Sainz, Grosjean and Kvyat.

Then Bottas leapt to the front with a 1:25.142 while Ricciardo claimed second place with a 1:25.515.

So now, at the 40-minute break, the top 10 were: Bottas, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Perez, Massa, Sainz, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Kvyat. At the bottom of the list came Vandoorne and Ocon who had yet to set a timed lap.

Stroll was once again the first driver out after the lull. Ocon and Vandoorne also got going and doing some flying laps.

Ricciardo now topped the times with a 1:24.886 on the super soft Pirellis. Bottas used the ultra softs to top that with a 1:24.803. Hamilton's run on the ultras yielded a 1:24.220.

Missing from the action was Vettel whose Ferrari was undergoing repairs after doing just five laps. He finally got going again with less than 20 minutes remaining in the session. He moved up to sixth place.

The top 10 at the end of the first free practice session of the new era were: Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Raikkonen, Vettel, Massa, Grosjean, Hulkenberg and Perez.