Defending world champion Lewis Hamilton laid down the gauntlet as the opening free practice session of the 2016 Formula One season got under way in extremely tricky conditions at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne on Friday.

The triple world champion completed 14 laps with a fastest time of 1m 29.725s ending the session just ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniil Kvyat and home favourite Daniel Ricciardo in the RB12.

Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg showed that the Silverstone based outfit’s pre-season pace appears to be genuine as the German ended the session fourth place in the VJM09 just ahead of Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen. Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes W07 was sixth fastest ending the opening session just ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who was very impressive ending the opening practice in seventh place.

Jenson Button in the second McLaren was equally impressive as the 2009 world champion ended his run in eighth place completing more laps than anyone else with 16 to his name.

Sergio Perez was ninth fastest in the second Force India. It was a good session for Renault’s Kevin Magnussen as while the Dane completed just 6 laps he rounded out the top ten for the Enstone outfit.

The Williams Martini Racing Team duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa ended the opening session just outside the top ten in 11th and 12th place respectively just ahead of Felipe Nasr in the Sauber C35. Jolyon Palmer in the second Renault was 14th fastest ending up just ahead of Marcus Ericsson in the second Sauber.

New driver, Pascal Wehrlein in the Mercedes powered Manor Racing machine was impressive as he ended the session in 16th place just ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen who was 17th fastest. The Finn spun in the closing stages of the session due to the weather however he had topped the times early on in the session.

Esteban Gutierrez in the Haas F1 Team VF16 was 18th fastest despite flirting with the top ten during the session. The Mexican came on the radio to his engineer to say:

There are a lot of inconsistencies on power delivery.

Manor Racing’s Rio Haryanto ended his first Formula One free practice session in 19th place just ahead of Romain Grosjean in the second Haas car. The Frenchman was last driver to set a time as neither Carlos Sainz in his Toro Rosso or Sebastian Vettel in his Ferrari set a time during the session.



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