After two weeks of testing at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, it was finally go time Friday at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne as teams prepared for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
The start of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship began with two, 90-minute practice sessions – FP1 and FP2 – which saw the new-for-2017 technical regulations in real-time action on the 5.303-kilometer, 16-turn track.
The advanced aerodynamic package for this year’s car was put in place to create a higher level of downforce and it was achieved with a wider front wing, larger barge boards, a lower and wider rear wing and a diffuser that expands 50 millimeters in height and width.
Augmenting the aerodynamic advances are wider tires from Pirelli, by 60 millimeters in the front and 80 millimeters in the rear. It’s a 25-percent increase that brings the front tires to 305 millimeters and the rear tires to 405 millimeters. The net effect was immediate, with lap times more than two seconds faster than those achieved in final practice for last year’s Australian GP.
Leading the way in FP1 was the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton’s quick time of 1:24.220 was .583 of a second better than Bottas. More pointedly, Hamilton’s fast lap in FP1 was only .691 of a second off the all-time lap record at Albert Park Circuit – a 1:23.529 set by Sebastian Vettel in qualifying in 2011.
First free practice results:
|3.||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull||01:24.886|
|4.||M. Verstappen||Red Bull||01:25.246|
|10.||S. Perez||Force India||01:26.276|
|11.||C. Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||01:26.450|
|12.||D. Kvyat||Toro Rosso||01:26.514|
|16.||E. Ocon||Force India||01:27.656|
Hamilton continued his quick pace by finishing atop FP2. He was the only driver to lap the track in under a minute and 24 seconds. His quick time of 1:23.620 was .547 of a second better than his nearest pursuer, Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, and only .091 of a second off Vettel’s 2011 lap record.
Second free practice results:
|5.||D. Ricciardo||Red Bull||01:24.650|
|6.||M. Verstappen||Red Bull||01:25.013|
|7.||C. Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||01:25.084|
|10.||D. Kvyat||Toro Rosso||01:25.493|
|11.||S. Perez||Force India||01:25.591|
|13.||E. Ocon||Force India||01:26.145|