MELBOURNE: World champion Lewis Hamilton was comfortably the fastest in a rain-hit opening free practice Friday for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The Mercedes ace clocked a best lap time of one minute 29.725 seconds to hold a 0.421-second gap over Red Bull pair Daniil Kvyat and Australian Daniel Ricciardo in wet track conditions on the Albert Park street circuit.
In an inconclusive session as the F1 cars took to the track for the first time in the new season, Hamilton took up where he left off in last year’s championship season of 10 wins out of the 19 races.
Russia’s Kvyat put in a best lap time of 1:30.146 with Ricciardo clocking 1:30.875.
Nico Hulkenberg in a Force India was fourth quickest (1:31.325) with Toro Rosso’s Dutchman Max Verstappen next with 1:31.720.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg was sixth fastest ahead of McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.
The Ferraris had a troubled session with Kimi Raikkonen down the time charts in 17th place with 1:40.754 and four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel failing to record a time in the 90-minute session.
Rio Haryanto, Indonesia’s first-ever F1 racer, had to cool his heels for much of the session because of the wet track and came up with the 19th-best time of 1:43.372.
The drivers will have another practice session later on Friday amid clearing conditions ahead of Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Melbourne race.