Lewis Hamilton kicked off his world championship defence in typical fashion by setting the fastest time in first practice ahead of the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix.
The delayed campaign finally got under way at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring on Friday, three-and-a-half months after the doomed Australian Grand Prix was cancelled and 215 days since the final competitive action in Abu Dhabi at the end of last year.
But there was a familiar name at the top of the time charts in Austria, as Hamilton — this year bidding to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships — set a blistering pace.
The 35-year-old Mercedes driver finished a third of a second clear of team-mate Valtteri Bottas, with Red Bull driver Max Verstappen in third, 0.6 seconds off the pace.
Mercedes, who have ditched their traditional silver livery for black this term in the fight against racism, confirmed they are using their controversial Dual-Axis System (DAS).