Hamilton on top, Red Bull relieved in Australia

Fri Mar 14, 2014 6:56am EDT
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By Ian Ransom

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton lent some credibility to the hype around Mercedes by posting the fastest time in Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix, as the Formula One season kicked off with teams still battling reliability problems.

The 2008 world champion could not finish a lap in the first session due to an oil pressure sensor problem, but topped the timesheets in the second with a lap of one minute 29.625 seconds on a glorious sunny day at Albert Park.

Champions Red Bull, who arrived under a cloud after problems throughout winter testing, also made a promising start and breathed a sigh of relief.

Quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel finished an encouraging fourth on the timesheets, with his new team mate Daniel Ricciardo sixth behind McLaren's Jenson Button.

Hamilton's quickest lap edged out team mate Nico Rosberg by 0.157 seconds as the pace of the two Mercedes' drivers carried on from their strong showing in winter testing.

"I was trying to feel the car. I missed obviously P1 (first practice) which I felt like was a big back-step," Hamilton told reporters in the paddock.

"I'm satisfied with P2...Not the most perfect day but I'm really glad I got some run in P2 and just grateful I got some time to feel the car."

"I've still got a lot to improve on, a lot to find. Otherwise the balance doesn't feel too bad."   Continued...

Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain waits in his car during the second practice session of the Australian F1 Grand Prix at the Albert Park circuit in Melbourne March 14, 2014. REUTERS/Brandon Malone