Lewis Hamilton has opened the Australian Grand Prix on top ahead of the Red Bull Racing pairing of Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo in a rain-affected session.

The session started under damp conditions after heavy rain flooded Melbourne in the early hours of the morning, which saw drivers take to the circuit on the intermediate compound tyres.

Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to head out for the new season, followed by his teammate Kimi Räikkönen, Max Verstappen and Nico Hülkenberg. Nico Rosberg registered the first timed lap of the season, posting a 1:44.037 on the drying track.

Räikkönen’s first timed lap earned him a brief stint at the top of the timesheets, until local Ricciardo demoted the Finn after he had switched from intermediates to the medium tyre.

The rest of the field started to follow suit as the track was dry enough to log some laps on the slicks, however just as most of the field went out on the dry-weather rubber, the rain returned. This caused a pause in the session as teams decided not to risk running in wet conditions.

Carlos Sainz Jr failed to set a lap time throughout the 90-minute session after his Toro Rosso was hit with mechanical problems. Sebastian Vettel joined him in being the only other driver not to set a lap time.

Sainz’s teammate Max Verstappen, therefore, did most of the work for Toro Rosso, finishing in fifth position and logging 14 laps. It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Dutchman as the low grip circuit caught him out, spinning the teenager at the exit of Turn 6 with 20 minutes remaining.

Verstappen wasn’t the only driver to make a mistake in the greasy conditions. Other notables included Räikkönen and Ricciardo: the former slid off down the escape road at Turn 13, while Ricciardo found himself beached in the Turn 12 gravel trap in the dying second of the session after catching some standing water.

Force India had a solid session with both drivers finishing inside the top ten. Hülkenberg was fourth, 1.6 seconds off Hamilton’s benchmark, while teammate Sergio Pérez was 3.6 seconds behind in ninth, behind the McLaren pair of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.

Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten on his debut for Renault, while his teammate Jolyon Palmer finished fourteenth between the Saubers of Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson.

The Haas F1 Team debuted for the first time with Romain Grosjean taking to the track eight minutes into the session. The Frenchman was slowest of the timed runners while Esteban Gutierrez was in eighteenth, with neither setting a timed lap on the dry-weather tyres.

Friday’s second practice session gets underway at Albert Park at 16:30 local time (GMT +11).

Driver Team / Entry Result Laps
1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid 1:29.725 14
2. Daniil Kvyat ru Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 0.421 14
3. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing Tag Heuer RB12 + 1.150 13
4. Nico Hülkenberg de Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 1.600 8
5. Max Verstappen nl Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 + 1.995 14
6. Nico Rosberg de Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 Hybrid + 2.089 11
7. Fernando Alonso es McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 3.335 11
8. Jenson Button McLaren-Honda MP4-31 + 3.404 16
9. Sergio Pérez Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM09 + 3.645 6
10. Kevin Magnussen dk Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 4.335 13
11. Valtteri Bottas fi Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 4.825 6
12. Felipe Massa br Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW38 + 4.954 6
13. Felipe Nasr br Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 5.071 7
14. Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport F1 Team RS16 + 5.752 12
15. Marcus Ericsson Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C35 + 8.231 6
16. Pascal Wehrlein de Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 10.676 6
17. KimiRäikkönen fi Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H + 11.029 10
18. Esteban Gutiérrez Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 12.055 8
19. Rio Haryanto id Manor Racing Mercedes MRT5 + 13.647 7
20. Romain Grosjean fr Haas F1 Ferrari VF-16 + 13.718 6
21. Sebastian Vettel de Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H no time 8
22. Carlos Sainz Jr es Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari STR11 no time 3

George Hitchens Photography

Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1

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Josh Kruse

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