After the hype of pre-season testing it was business as usual as the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team car of Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets on the opening day.
The opening session saw the two Scuderia Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel finish in fifth and sixth positions respectively with a total of 26 laps between the two cars as they worked on set-up and balance on the soft Pirelli tyres.
The second session saw Vettel up the game to finish second fastest, albeit 0.547 seconds down of the Mercedes of Hamilton. Raikkonen also saw an improvement as he moved up to fourth fastest, just behind Valtteri Bottas, but more importantly in front of the two Red Bull Racing cars as they trialled the Super and Ultrasoft Pirelli rubber.
“On Friday, it is always difficult to say much.” commented Vettel who completed a further 35 laps in the second session. “Anyway, it was nice to be back in the cockpit again. In the first session, we had a few small problems which slowed us down a bit, but things went better in the second one.
“As for the balance, today wasn’t bad, but there is still room for improvement. The lap times don’t mean anything. Only tomorrow will we find out what the score is.”
Raikkonen was happy with the opening day as he echoed Vettel’s comments after completing 30 laps in the second practice session.
“We can be pleased, because overall the day didn’t go badly. We learned a lot of things and now we know in which areas we have to improve.
“As for performance, you cannot compare it to winter testing, partly because this is a bit of an unusual track and doesn’t produce a clear picture of the situation.”