Lewis Hamilton has said that the closeness in competition seen in Free Practice 2 at Albert Park is “exciting” and should be welcomed by Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport.
Hamilton topped both of Friday’s Practice sessions, going half a second faster than anyone else in the morning – however, he saw his gap at the top fall to just over a tenth of a second in the afternoon, as Max Verstappen and Aston Martin Red Bull Racing closed in.
But Hamilton shared no concerns with the state of play going into Saturday’s final Free Practice and all-important Qualifying session.
“We started on the right foot today, we got through everything we needed,” said Hamilton.
“It closed up a little bit in FP2 in terms of the gap between us all, but that’s exciting. It’s more challenging for me to try and eke out a little more from the car.”
Hamilton added that there are various unknowns on the first day of the new season in both driver and car.
“Coming to the first race, you really have no idea what it’s going to be like.
“You don’t how you’re going to feel physically, you don’t know how the tyres are going to react to the circuit.”
However, the reigning world champion was pleased with the performance of the revised Pirelli P-Zero tyre range, noting that Mercedes did not suffer a repeat of blistering issues that proved to be a jot on an otherwise impressive winter testing copybook.
“The tyres definitely didn’t seem to have the same issue that we had in Barcelona where they were blistering,” he said.
“So it felt a lot more normal. Obviously the car is quicker here than it was last year, so it feels better everywhere. Turns 11 and 12 are crazy, we’re not even braking into that corner, it’s insane.”
Yet, Hamilton remained apprehensive about the threat of wet weather on Saturday and Sunday, saying it will be new experience for him on the new 2018 wet weather tyres after opting not to run in wet conditions at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya tests.
“It’s going to rain tomorrow and on Sunday as far as I’m aware. I’ve not driven in the rain yet on these tyres, so that’ll be interesting.”