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Australian GP: Lewis Hamilton sets the pace in opening free practice

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The defending champion is staking his claim early. Red Bulls close behind.

Lewis Hamilton Australia
Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team's British driver Lewis Hamilton powers through a corner during the first practice session for the Formula One Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 18, 2016.
 

Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes in a rain-hit first free practice at Formula One'sseason-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday. The Briton bided his time until a break between rain squalls late in the 90-minute session at Albert Park and posted a lap of one minute 29.725 seconds, over four-tenths of a second quicker than Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat.

Kvyat's Australian team mate Daniel Ricciardo was third fastest, over a second adrift of Hamilton, and took a spill into the gravel late in the session as he pushed for a better time.

Four-times champion Sebastian Vettel, tipped to threaten Hamilton's ambitions of a third successive title, was first out of the garage in his Ferrari but failed to post a time as gusty winds buffeted the street circuit.

His team mate Kimi Raikkonen locked up and skidded at a turn, finishing with the 17th fastest time of the 20 cars that posted laps.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg was fourth quickest ahead of Toro Rosso's teenager Max Verstappen.

Hamilton's team-mate Nico Rosberg, who won the final three races of last season, was sixth quickest.

Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz struggled with a reliability problem and was also unable to post a lap time.

New team Haas, the first U.S.-owned F1 outfit in 30 years, had a cautious debut with French driver Romain Grosjean the slowest and team mate Esteban Gutierrez 18th fastest.


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