For the first time since 2019, F1 cars took to the track at Albert Park in Melbourne.
The pandemic allowed the Australian Grand Prix organisers to heavily revise the layout of the circuit before F1's return, hoping to create more opportunities for better racing and more overtaking.
It was Ferrari who once again showed great pace as Carlos Sainz went fastest in FP1, with teammate Charles Leclerc beating Max Verstappen to top spot in the afternoon.
Alpine had an excellent FP2 with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the top 6 positions. McLaren also had a decent day as Norris and Ricciardo ended up inside the top 10.
However, it was another disastrous day for Mercedes as the eight-time defending Constructors' Champions could only manage 11th and 13th as porpoising and a general lack of pace seems them a over second off Leclerc's time on Friday.
Read the thoughts of all 20 drivers below.
Max Verstappen: "Today has been quite positive, the grip on track was good and the bumps have definitely improved, it's a bit smoother and it makes the track nicer as well because you can actually attack the corners a bit more, I enjoyed my laps today. I think in FP1 and at the beginning of FP2 we were lacking a bit of balance, then for the final run we changed the car around a little bit and I felt a lot happier. We are still a tiny bit off Ferrari, but I think this weekend we can maybe make it a little bit closer. In the long run I think everything worked well, so I am happy about that, and we've made some good improvements today. We are heading in a good direction and we'll try to build from there tomorrow."
Sergio Perez: "It was a fairly challenging Friday for us. We made some changes going into FP2 that we must analyse because a few things aren't working as expected. The car felt better in some ways from FP1 into the second session and in other ways not, there is plenty to work on to try to understand the direction we have taken. It has been a very difficult day in terms of mileage, starting in FP1 and we lost some track time in FP2 but I think we have some good data to go over tonight. If we can find a few tenths then that would turn things in our favour this weekend, we just have to understand where we are at the moment with the car."
George Russell: "We’re not in a position where we want to be, there are quite a few midfield cars ahead of us and we’re obviously a long way off the pace from the front. We need to work hard tonight and understand the limitations. The car actually felt alright, we’re porpoising pretty bad into turn nine but I think that’s something we just have to deal with for the time being. We believe how we set the car up was the fastest way around the track but maybe it’s not, so we’ll be working hard tonight to understand more. Driving is always cool, especially driving round a circuit like this - it’s just more fun when you jump out of the car and see your name near the top of the timesheets!"
Lewis Hamilton: "FP2 was a difficult session, we tried a few changes but the car didn’t seem to want to improve. FP1 was better but it’s just a tricky car to get working. It’s frustrating because you’re pushing and pushing, and even when you pull off a good lap, you look at the times and we’re over a second down. We’ve got lots of work to do to close the gap."
Charles Leclerc: "For me, today was a bit of a harder Friday. FP1 was a bit tricky, I improved in terms of driving in FP2, but there is still quite a bit of work to do.
I don’t think that anyone really put their lap together. Qualifying is tomorrow, when hopefully we’ll have a good run."
Carlos Sainz: "It has been an interesting Friday as we had to deal with a lot of new things compared to the last time that we raced here. The track is completely different from what it used to be: it’s definitely faster and the new tarmac feels totally different in terms of grip as far as I can remember.
'We need to keep working on understanding how the tyres behave but, in general, I think we have a good baseline to start preparing for tomorrow’s qualifying."
Lando Norris: "Today was one of our better days so far this season. I think we started off the day well with a good balance and just made further improvements, moving in a decent direction. So far it looks similar to Jeddah, which is a good thing for us, because that was a decent weekend. Things are looking reasonably good, there's still a bit more to improve, so that's our job going into qualifying tomorrow."
Daniel Ricciardo: "It was a good day, just getting back into the groove here in Melbourne, and I enjoyed it. The layout has always been fun, but it now has some additional changes to it and for the most part, I like them. Both cars ended in the top ten in both sessions today, so hopefully it's a sign of things to come for the weekend. We're in a decent place with the car and we'll just keep at it. We will try to adapt with the track in terms of changes for the rest of the weekend to stay on top of it. I have good confidence and hopefully it turns into better days to come."
Fernando Alonso: “We had some minor things that delayed us a little in Free Practice 1, but we still managed a pretty normal day for us. We completed a good amount of running and got a lot of information from both sessions. There are some balance issues that we need to solve, especially on the higher fuel runs. I obviously saw the track yesterday, but I think the changes are more positive and the lap is obviously much quicker now. I’m not sure if there will be more overtaking on Sunday, but let’s see. It’s definitely great to be back here in Melbourne."
Esteban Ocon: “First of all it was great to be back driving here in Albert Park and also getting a real-life look at the changes that have been made. Overall, a very positive day for the team where both cars finished in the top ten in both free practices. But we know it’s all about tomorrow and Sunday and we can already see that it’s going to be very tight like it was in Bahrain and Jeddah. The competition is close, especially in the midfield, so we will be working hard to put it all together for qualifying. It should be pretty exciting and hopefully the team can have another solid day tomorrow to be in a good position for the race.”
Pierre Gasly: "I must say this new track layout is pretty cool, it's definitely a lot faster which is always personally something I like, as you can definitely feel the potential of an F1 car when you're going through a corner at 200-250 kph, that is a really unique experience. It's obviously quite challenging getting to grips with a new layout and definitely bumpier than we expected, but it's been a good day. There's a couple of things to improve for tomorrow, to unlock some more potential, but generally speaking I've enjoyed today. I think we struggled a bit this morning and didn't start the session off in the best way, but we made a lot of improvements for FP2 which was really positive. Alpine are looking strong this weekend, especially with Fernando, but we'll focus on ourselves ahead of Qualifying and try to extract the most from the car. Personally, I don't know if there will be more grip coming tomorrow but I hope so, from past experience that's what we've seen on new tarmac, but let's wait and see."
Yuki Tsunoda: "I really enjoyed driving around this track. I don't know the difference from previous years, as it's my first time, but I felt confident around here straight away. We had good pace early on and I'm pretty happy with how the day went. We know our limitations and we're heading in the right direction in finding the right setup for the car. There are still a few areas where I can improve myself as well, so we will see how we can put everything together to maximise the performance of the car ahead of tomorrow."
Lance Stroll: "I think we have a made a good start to our weekend and the car is in a decent starting place, although we always want to find and extract more pace from it. We will work hard tonight to see if we can find more gains. It has been really fun to take on the challenge of a revised Albert Park Circuit. It is much faster and more exciting, and the four DRS zones should help cars get closer and improve overtaking, so let us see what the rest of the weekend has in store for us."
Sebastian Vettel: "It was a shame to have to finish FP1 earlier than we would have liked – and then not be able to take part in FP2 – because today was an important day for me in terms of getting back up to speed with the car and learning a new layout. The positives are that I felt I was able to get comfortable quite quickly and that we had a good balance in the car, too. It is a shame, however, not to have completed more laps, but it was a power unit issue and that meant we had to replace it. The car will be fine for tomorrow and we will continue to work hard and make progress."
Valtteri Bottas: “I am pretty happy about where we are and I think I have a realistic chance to keep my Q3 streak going – I don’t want to give up on that! That’s our goal, if we set the car up right tonight we should be fighting for a place in the top ten. We were able to run with different compounds today and the way they work reflect pretty much what we expected, so we are confident we can use them well, and I didn’t suffer from too much degradation, which is a positive. Overall, I am pleased – I also really like the new track layout. It’s fast, overtaking should be easier but not too easy: I think they did a good job.”
Zhou Guanyu: “The first impact with this track was quite interesting, probably not quite what I imagined it would be. I did a lot of running in the simulator, but it’s only when you’re actually here that you notice how close you are to the grass and how tiny and narrow the track is. It’s a tricky layout but I am enjoying it: it’s nice to drive and I’m getting into a rhythm. I am still learning about the car, about the engineering, and how to get the most out of everything throughout the weekend: to also have to learn a new track is an added challenge, but I like it – it’s not a big issue. Our pace looks competitive, I am optimistic for tomorrow. We still have a lot of work to do with the engineers, so hopefully we can find something more overnight. If we put our lap together, we should be in a good place.”
Kevin Magnussen: "I didn't feel great when I woke up this morning but we still managed to get some laps in and get a feel for the car. Hopefully I'll be a bit better tomorrow, build from there and have a good qualifying again. It looks like we have a bit of work to do on the low-fuel balance whereas high-fuel balance seems more in the window, so that's the focus."
Mick Schumacher: "It's a great track, a flowy track and it's quite quick so it was interesting to drive. We had a few issues here and there and we're still trying to figure it out and be 100 percent sure with what we have as an issue but we're getting there and tomorrow will be better."
Alex Albon: "It's a cool circuit here in Melbourne; the track is a lot of fun to drive and the fans have been incredible. Today could have gone a little better, but we made a good step up between FP1 and FP2 so we're going in the right direction and we know what we need to focus on. "We'll continue the work tonight, and hopefully we're in a stronger place for Qualifying tomorrow."
Nicholas Latifi: "It was a pretty fun first day getting to experience the Albert Park track as it's my first time driving here. It's very fast, especially where they've made changes to the track; it's got a street track vibe in some corners, and a little more technical than I was expecting, but I think lap by lap we were gaining confidence. Still a lot of gains to be made with the driving and the car. Hopefully we'll make some good changes overnight to put us in a better position for tomorrow."