Hamilton registers fastest time

Rosberg close second as Mercedes set the pace for season opener

Lewis Hamilton lent some credibility to the hype surrounding 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 a 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.

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

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

Teams struggled to come to terms with the new turbocharged hybrid engines during pre-season, and continued to battle glitches during practice, with drivers cooling their heels for long stretches in the garages, as technicians tinkered frantically.

Excursions onto the track saw a number of drivers fight to handle the extra torque and reduced downforce of the new V6 power units, with plenty of over-steering at corners and skids into the grass.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso handled conditions better than most, posting the quickest lap of one minute 31.840 seconds in the first session and finishing third fastest in the second.

Reigning quadruple champion Sebastian Vettel had a couple of nervy skids, coming onto the grass at one point in the later session, but finished an encouraging fourth, having endured a dismal winter testing with Red Bull.

Sahara Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg managed his fastest lap in FP1 in 1 minute and 33.533 seconds but cut down at least two seconds in the second session to take the 10th spot.

Mexico’s Sergio Perez’s was the 13th fastest with his best time of the day in 1:31.283 in FP2.

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