The first race weekend of the 2018 Formula 1 season has arrived and all the teams and drivers were on hand at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne to put their respective cars through the paces and iron out all the kinks and find the right balance ahead of the race on Sunday.
Lewis Hamilton admitted that he is excited ahead of the first race and confirmed that Mercedes were able to complete their entire planned program during the first two practice sessions of the Australian Grand Prix on Friday.
The four-time F1 Drivers’ champion led the way in both FP1 and FP2 and looks the favorite to take the chequered flag ahead of his rivals when the race concludes on Sunday. Hamilton was over half a second faster than his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas in the morning session, but the gap closed to the leader in the afternoon with Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen just over a tenth of a second slower than the Briton.
Hamilton was not overly concerned but was keen to understand if it was his car that had lost performance or if it was his rivals who gained speed in the second session on Friday. Despite the times on Friday, the true pecking order will only be clear on Saturday once the qualifying session comes to an end.
“It has been a good day. Coming here to the first race you never really know – you really have no idea what it is going to be like,” Hamilton said after the second practice session on Friday, as quoted by Planet F1.
“You don’t know how you are going to feel physically, how the tyres are going to react to the circuit. But we started on the right foot and got through everything that we needed to.
“It closed up a little bit in P2 in terms of the gap, but that is exciting anyways. It is more challenging for me to drive and eke out a little more from the car. We have to establish if I lost some performance or they all gained. But I enjoyed driving,” he added.
The Mercedes driver was also amazed by the speeds the cars are being able to do compared to last year despite him going around the Albert Park Circuit almost three tenths slower than last year’s FP2 time. Hamilton expects to get quicker as the weekend wears on after admitting that Mercedes did not struggle with getting their tires to work without the blistering they suffered in Barcelona.
“The tyres definitely didn’t seem to have the issue that we had after Barcelona, where they were just blistering the whole time,” Hamilton said. “So it felt a lot more normal. But obviously the car is quicker here than it was last year, so it feels better everywhere.”
“Turns 11 and 12 are just crazy! We are not even braking into that corner, it is insane! But we are going to get quicker and quicker through the weekend. Well if it does not rain.”
However, weather predictions suggest the Albert Park Circuit is likely to be bathed in rain for both the qualifying session on Saturday and the race on Sunday, which is likely to make it more interesting in terms of the pecking order.