Mercedes performance similar to Barcelona - Hamilton

Mercedes performance similar to Barcelona - Hamilton

Mercedes performance similar to Barcelona - Hamilton

It was also an encouraging session for Kimi Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo, the team formerly known as Sauber.

While well off Mercedes' pace, Verstappen posted his fastest lap at the start of a long run, meaning he likely had more fuel on board and would be quicker in qualifying conditions.

"I think it [Mercedes' form] was quite clear, however it's hard to know what everyone's doing, so naturally we won't fully know until we get out in the vehicle tomorrow. The vehicle feels like it's in a similar place to where it was in Barcelona, which is positive coming to a different track", said Hamilton. Hulkenberg spent more than an hour of his morning session with his auto on jacks in the garage with an electronics issue, while new teammate Ricciardo lost nearly 30 minutes of his afternoon to a technical problem before taking to the track, though both ended up in the mix at the head of the midfield as expected by the end of the day.

"The rumours are they found 15 kilowatts over the winter - that's potentially half the deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari".

Renault struggled during the session under blue skies in Melbourne, an electrical problem consigning Hulkenberg to the pits for the majority of the session and Daniel Ricciardo struggling to find pace on his home track with a deficit of two seconds behind Hamilton.

"We didn't bring a lot of new parts to the vehicle, but we were able to optimise the package that we have.

So far the atmosphere is good, the spirit is right within the team and we will try to carry that into the season".

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There was some speculation in the paddock that Ferrari may have been sandbagging, or deliberately holding back ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

The Formula 1 season has begun again, with faster cars, new rules, and new line-ups. He recovered but later told the team his auto was "still a bit wobbly".

Ricciardo feels those things could well be learnt from Hulkenberg, whose long-run pace he described as "quite impressive" and which left him encouraged for the weekend ahead.

"It was a tricky day for us - it was probably a tricky day for everyone".

"I had this (feeling) a few times".

"If we can get that confidence and that groove back, there is a lot of lap time in that around here", he added.

Alex Albon was 17th, one place behind the second Racing Point of Sergio Perez, and followed up his FP1 crash with a run through the gravel mid-season then a similar spin to Giovinazzi's late on. He reiterated that Mercedes had plenty of "work to do" in Thursday's media conference.

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