Hamilton fastest in 1st practice at Australian GP

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Five-time and defending world champion Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the season-opening Formula One practice session Friday when he held off both Ferraris at the Australian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver's fastest lap of 1 minute, 23.599 seconds was 0.038 faster than Sebastian Vettel, who is aiming for a third consecutive victory at the Australian GP.

The pair finished first and second in the drivers' championship last season, with Hamilton dominating the second half of the season and finishing with 11 victories from 21 GP events.

Vettel's new teammate Charles Leclerc was 0.074 back in third place, ahead of Red Bull driver Max Verstappen.

Hamilton's Mercedes teammate Valterri Bottas posted the first time of the season , completing an early lap of the Albert Park circuit in 1:26.454. He improved his pace to 1:23.866 to finish the session with the fifth-fastest time.

The first practice was held in cool, clear conditions with the temperature reaching 21 Celsius (70 Fahrenheit). Officials were expecting slightly warmer weather for the second practice session later Friday, and for qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday's race.

The session was suspended for four minutes after Alexander Albon spun at Turn 2 and lost the forward wing on his Toro Rosso.

In between, FIA President Jean Todt and Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey attended a news conference with started with a minute of silence in memory of race director Charlie Whiting, who died in Melbourne on Thursday from a pulmonary embolism.

The death of the popular and widely-acclaimed veteran official shocked drivers and the entire F1 community. F1's managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn and Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto were among friends and colleagues who wore black arm bands on Friday as a mark of respect for Whiting.


More AP racing: https://www.racing.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports


More AP F1 coverage: https://apnews.com/FormulaOne

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