Mercedes fastest in FP2, Ferrari fifth and ninth

Despite his huge experience the German admitted to being

The Mercedes driver clocked one minute 23.59 seconds in the opening session of the 2019 season, just 0.03 of a second ahead of Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel, and 0.74 seconds ahead of Charles Leclerc, also from Ferrari.

Hamilton beat Valtteri Bottas by 0.048 seconds but the two were 0.8secs clear of the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.

Ferrari was off the pace the second time around, with two-time defending Australian GP champion Vettel in fifth spot and Leclerc sliding backward into the track-side grass after losing control with only minutes remaining and recording the ninth-fastest lap.

Ferrari's new SF90 vehicle has been widely regarded as the early benchmark of the 2019 F1 field, and Hamilton suggested in Barcelona that Mercedes could be as much as half a second adrift. Officials were expecting slightly warmer weather for the second practice session later Friday, and for qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday's race. Few Formula One insiders see Daniel being able to put the pressure on front runners Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull with his Renault yet to show the pace needed to give him his 8th grand prix win.

After impressing at recent testing at Barcelona, Ferrari's Binotto seemed to be foxing on Friday when he claimed he wasn't optimistic about their Melbourne chances.

"But we said that we have work to do and we weren't talking BS". "I think that winter testing is not qualifying, it's not a racing environment, you never know what the others are running. There's plenty of things we can improve on, which is a positive, but it's absolutely not a bad start at all". Hulkenberg spent more than an hour of his morning session with his vehicle 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.

"Testing was hard to read for us".

Still, Hamilton sounded his intentions with the practice clean sweep. Ferrari haven't won the constructors' title since 2008 and their last drivers' crown came in 2007 through Kimi Raikkonen.

The other rookie, British-born Thai Alexander Albon, had a hard first day.

Williams driver Robert Kubica was slowest in the 20-strong field in the second session in his first F1 event in eight years after a horror world rally championship crash.

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