In front of a grandstand at half its capacity (which is pretty impressive for a Friday) the Formula 1 challengers of the 2019 season made their way onto the asphalt of Albert Park. With a track temperature of 30ºC and hardly a cloud in the sky, these were the perfect conditions for Free Practice 1. The anticipation to this moment had been intense seeing how two days prior, the same fans had lined the shore of the Yarra River to see the drivers but today was what everyone had waited so patiently for – the cars!
The first driver to go into the history books recording the first timed lap of the session was none of the hotly tipped (highly pressured) youngsters or even crowd favourite Daniel Ricciardo. Instead, it was Mercedes’ own Valterri Bottas with a time of 1:26.454. Obviously the times would fall considerably throughout the session but this element of leading from the front from Bottas was brilliant to see and he will have to do it many more times this weekend to prevent the label of ‘Hamilton’s wing man’ carrying over from last season.
In the opening exchanges, the pair of Mercedes drivers were quickest hitting the 1:24 mark on the mediums (C3) whilst an energized Max Verstappen was nipping at their heels one tenth behind on the softs (C4).
A Formula One season does not go its course without a fair share of red flags and ‘Session Stopped announcements and then with 22 minutes remaining such a situation arose when Alex Albon on his debut came out of Turn two facing the wrong direction and a heavy impact to the rear end of his STR14 F1 car was inevitable.
‘You have no front wing, come very slowly.’ Albon was told over the team radio whilst the red flags waved either side of him as a somewhat guard of (dis)honour.
No sooner had the session restarted after a short delay, when several laps after the restart Valtteri Bottas rode a little too close to the edge following a big oversteer and consequently spun following contact with the grass – no damage caused though. Having started so confidently this had all the signs of a rookie mistake…for the veteran!
Ferrari took a while to make their mark on the timing screens but with 11 minutes remaining they had managed to be 0.038 from Hamilton’s tim 1:23.599 and 0.074 in the case of Charles LeClerc
Daniil Kvyat had been having a very successful session reaching seventh in the table with a 1:24.832 before saying over team radio
‘I have something on my rear tire, I don’t know what it is…what is going on?’
Could this be a sign of a potential issue for Torro Rosso ahead of this afternoon? Time will tell. For Lewis Hamilton though, having told the media the previous day ‘We said that we had work to do, we weren’t talking b.s. you know we have work to do.’ found himself on top of the time sheets with his 1:23.599. Will he still be there by the end of the day?
Now, the 2019 Formula One Season has definitely started.
Positions at end of Free Practice 1
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:23.599
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.038
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.074
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing +0.193
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +0.267
6 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing +1.217
7 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.233
8 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing +1.333
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 Team +1.335
10 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +1.416
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing +1.567
12 Romain Grosjean Haas F1 Team +1.625
13 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso +1.631
14 Carlos Sainz McLaren +1.686
15 Lance Stroll Racing Point +1.689
16 Sergio Perez Racing Point +1.899
17 Daniel Ricciardo Renault +2.035
18 Lando Norris McLaren +2.367
19 Robert Kubica Williams +4.315
20 George Russell Williams +5.141
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