On Day One of the 2018 F1 Season, Lewis Hamilton Is Fastest

Friday free practice for the Australian Grand Prix is over. Here are the best laps from every driver out there today.

byJames Gilboy| UPDATED Mar 23, 2018 9:12 AM
On Day One of the 2018 F1 Season, Lewis Hamilton Is Fastest

Until the fireworks fly in Abu Dhabi this November, Formula 1 will be full steam ahead. The 2018 season formally began today in Melbourne, with the first and second free practice sessions taking place for F1's now-traditional season opener: The Australian Grand Prix.

The race is held on the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, in Albert Park, which has hosted the event continuously since 1996. Its near 3.3 miles of tarmac are composed of 16 corners, which were traversed at their fastest during a race by Michael Schumacher in 2004, who set a race lap record of 1:24.125 in his Ferrari F2004.

While that time was beaten in qualifying for the 2017 race, only race laps count for record attempts, and Kimi Räikkönen's 1:26.538 on lap 56, the fastest of the race last year, was still well adrift of Schumacher's record. The cars have improved since then, but the addition of the "halo" safety structure, which has proved difficult to integrate for some teams, has been a speed bump for car development. For that reason, the odds of the lap record falling this year are slim.

As drivers are still getting a feel for their cars, the Friday practice laps in Australia are never strong indicators of the pecking order at the start of the season. The drivers ease themselves into the car and circuit, which keeps lapping slow, and sometimes conceal their true pace until qualifying rolls around the following day. Only then will we know for sure who's hot and who's not. In the mean time, here are the combined best laps of every driver to participate in the first and second free practice sessions.

  1. Lewis Hamilton/Mercedes - 1:23.931, -0.095 from FP1
  2. Max Verstappen/Red Bull - 1:24.058, -0.713 from FP1
  3. Valtteri Bottas/Mercedes - 1:24.159, -0.418 from FP1
  4. Kimi Räikkönen/Ferrari - 1:24.214, -0.661 from FP1
  5. Sebastian Vettel/Ferrari - 1:24.451, -0.544 from FP1
  6. Romain Grosjean/Haas - 1:24.648, -1.082 from FP1
  7. Daniel Ricciardo/Red Bull - 1:24.721, -0.343 from FP1
  8. Fernando Alonso/McLaren - 1:25.200, -0.696 from FP1
  9. Kevin Magnussen/Haas - 1:25.246, -1.789 from FP1
  10. Stoffel Vandoorne/McLaren - 1:25.285, -1.197 from FP1
  11. Carlos Sainz/Renault - 1:25.390, -0.532 from FP1
  12. Sergio Perez/Force India - 1:25.413, -1.354 from FP1
  13. Nico Hulkenberg/Renault - 1:25.463, -1.120 from FP1
  14. Lance Stroll/Williams - 1:25.543, -1.093 from FP1
  15. Esteban Ocon/Force India - 1:25.888, -0.717 from FP1
  16. Brendon Hartley/Toro Rosso-Honda - 1:25.925, -1.820 from FP1
  17. Pierre Gasly/Toro Rosso-Honda - 1:25.945, -0.549 from FP1
  18. Sergey Sirotkin/Williams - 1:25.974, -0.562 from FP1
  19. Marcus Ericsson/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:26.814, -1.150 from FP1
  20. Charles Leclerc/Alfa Romeo Sauber - 1:26.815, -2.038 from FP1

Every driver's best lap was in FP2, with teams having time to adjust setup between sessions, and drivers committing the track better to memory. Some improved little, others slashed lap times by over a second. A mid-session red flag in FP2 forced multiple drivers, such as Stroll and Ricciardo, to abandon their hot laps, limiting statistical improvement between the two sessions.

Time gains vary from under a tenth by Hamilton to over two seconds by debutant Leclerc. Were improvement a podium, Leclerc would be flanked by Hartley and Magnussen.

After tomorrow's qualifying session, we will know whose cards were kept close to their chest, and who was bluffing. Until then, enjoy the highlights of the free practice sessions here.