Lewis Hamilton dominates practice in Melbourne

March 24, 2017

Lewis Hamilton has been the dominant driver in practice for the Australian Grand Prix, suggesting that he will be the man to beat once again this year.

The three-time world champion lost his crown to Nico Rosberg last year, but with the German having promptly retired, the evidence of the first laps at Melbourne's Albert Park suggests that he will most likely be be celebrating for a fourth time come November.

Hamilton has spent the week warning that Ferrari are the favourites for the constructors championship and and tipping Sebastian Vettel to challenge him strongly for the title, but the Briton was over half a second faster than anyone else in both Friday practice sessions. His time in the second session of 1:23.620 was just one tenth of a second short of the lap record at the venue.

Vettel was second with 1:24.167 and Hamilton's new team-mate Valtteri Bottas third on 1:24.176. The second Ferrari driver, Kimi Raikonnen, was fourth, followed by the two Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Renault's Jolyon Palmer, the other Briton involved this year, finished last after hitting a wall on Lap 16.

It all suggests that the new Mercedes car will suit Hamilton well, and it could mean a series of pole positions followed by processions to victory as he leaves the rest in his wake.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the British Grand Prix in July may be very excited at the prospect of another Hamilton title, not least if it comes with victory at Silverstone.

Speaking to Sky 1 after practice, Mercedes director Toto Wolff said: "Hamilton is in a league of his own at the moment.

"His one-lap pace was really good and he took the ultrasofts for 17 laps and was stable. I'm happy."

It all leaves Ferrari with much to do, with Vettel admitting afterwards that the team needs to do some work on the car, although it improved following minor adjustments between the two sessions.

He commented: "In regards to the balance of the car I am not fully happy - there is definitely potential to improve, and we will."

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