Vettel lacking confidence after wobbly practice in Aus

Vettel lacking confidence after wobbly practice in Aus

Vettel lacking confidence after wobbly practice in Aus

Lewis Hamilton suggested that Mercedes' eye-catching performance in Friday practice for the Australian Grand Prix was not a major improvement on their running during pre-season testing in Barcelona - putting an eight-tenths advantage to their rivals Red Bull and Ferrari into some context.

After pipping Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel with a lap of one minute 23.599 seconds in first practice, the Briton shaved nearly a second off that time in the second session, his quickest lap timed at 1:22.60.

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's new SF90 auto 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.

Sebastian Vettel, who has won in Melbourne for the past two years, could only manage fifth, almost a second adrift of arch-rival Hamilton, while Ferrari partner Charles Leclerc struggled to ninth, straddling the kerb and spinning as he pushed hard late in the day.

It was also an encouraging session for Kimi Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo, the team formerly known as Sauber.

Round one of the Australian Grand Prix and 2019 Formula One World Championship starts on Sunday.

Renault struggled during the session under blue skies in Melbourne, an electrical problem consigning Hulkenberg to the pits for the majority of the session and Daniel Ricciardo struggling to find pace on his home track with a deficit of two seconds behind Hamilton.

"By the time you finish the testing, the cars are ready to be shipped directly to Melbourne, so I think it's really by here that we start understanding who is the fastest".

"We still have lots to learn and improve on, but we're getting there".

Meanwhile, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said Hamilton's activities outside of Formula One - skydiving and his fashion brand - were not a "negative distraction".

There was some speculation in the paddock that Ferrari may have been sandbagging, or deliberately holding back ahead of qualifying on Saturday.

"It was a tricky day for us - it was probably a tricky day for everyone".

"I think for us we are not yet where we would like to be, not in terms of lap times but in terms of vehicle feel and handling", he added. "We didn't really get into the groove and the rhythm".

British-born Thai debutant Alexander Albon had a tough day, crashing his Toro Rosso to lose his front wing and causing a brief halt in the first session before spinning off track several times in the second. He reiterated that Mercedes had plenty of "work to do" in Thursday's media conference.

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