Lewis Hamilton 'super-stoked and excited' after topping practice

Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton Mercedes had no idea dominant performance was possible

Lewis Hamilton made a mockery of his claim that Ferrari would be half-a-second quicker at the Australian Grand Prix by easily clocking the fastest times in the season's opening practice runs Friday.

Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas was second quickest in FP2, 0.048 seconds slower than the Brit.

"I really have a positive buzz from driving the auto today and it's not too dissimilar to how it was past year." said the reigning champion.

Vettel found his vehicle behaving a bit differently than it did in the pre-season winter testing.

"We didn't really get into the groove and rhythm", he admitted, "and that's quite important around here".

But in the second session, when teams started to stretch their legs a little, the best Ferrari could do was fifth with Vettel, almost nine-tenths of a second behind Hamilton.

But four-times champion Vettel painted a gloomier picture, saying his vehicle was not behaving like it had during testing.

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The German said afterwards it had been "a tricky day".

Highlighting the team's woes is that its best time of the day was nearly a second slower than its best time of the same session last season despite most cars lapping more than a second quicker than they did in 2018.

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

He improved his pace to 1:23.866 to finish the session with the fifth-fastest time.

Kimi Raikkonen was strong on his Alfa Romeo debut, splitting Vettel from Renault teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, the triumvirate around a second off Hamilton's pace. The Finnish former world champion was sixth fastest in the second session, giving them hope of being the best of the midfield racers.

British-born Thai debutant Alexander Albon also had a tough start, spinning his Toro Rosso at turn two and having a low-impact crash to lose his front wing and cause a brief halt in the session. In a sport where times are measured to the thousandth of a second, the sight of Williams struggling to get within two seconds of their nearest rival is a depressing scene for the once proud outfit.

There's no shortage of talent behind the wheel of the two cars, with debutant George Russell winning the GP3 title in 2017 and the Formula 2 championship in 2018, while Robert Kubica is a former grand prix victor, returning to the sport eight years after his near-fatal rally accident.

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