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    REPORT: F1 is Back! Lewis Hamilton set the pace...

Lewis Hamilton set the pace in both Friday practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix, as Formula One returned to action at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

What Happened?

-  F1 was back in action for the first race weekend sessions of the 2018 season, with first and second practice taking place in dry and sunny conditions.

-  It was an encouraging day of running for the team, with the W09 showing positive signs during both 90-minute sessions

-  Lewis topped the timesheets in FP1 with a 1:24.026 on the UltraSoft tyre, putting in 27 laps.

-  Valtteri ended the first session in second place with a 1:24.577 on the UltraSoft tyre and managed 29 laps.

-  In FP2, Lewis also led the way, going faster than his earlier benchmark with a 1:23.931 on UltraSofts. He completed 35 laps in total.

-  Valtteri was P3 with a 1:24.159, also on the softest of the three tyre compounds Pirelli has brought to Australia, and lapped the Melbourne track 34 times.

What Did We Learn?

We got our 2018 F1 season off to an encouraging start, with largely untroubled running over the course of the day.

But, while the gaps to the cars behind were more comfortable in FP1, they closed up considerably in FP2. It's looking very close, according to Technical Director James Allison.

"It was a good day," James said. "We had a programme of finding out how the tyres behaved and we've been able to work through that without any drama.

"It's brilliant as always after the winter testing to actually be racing again and to be finding out for real where our car stands.

"If we were in any doubt before, we're in no doubt now that it's going to be a tight weekend with both Ferrari and Red Bull. But we're looking forward to the fight tomorrow and again on Sunday."

What Did the Drivers Think?

Lewis: "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.

"But we started on the right foot today, we got through everything we needed. 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.

"The tyres definitely didn't seem to have the same issue that we had in Barcelona where they were blistering, 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. 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."

Valtteri: "Practice 1 was tricky for me, we had a bit of an issue with the suspension and also with the fuel system, so it was difficult to get a good comparison.

"I don't think these issues are something to worry about, just something we discovered in the session. In second practice the car felt a lot better but there's still more to unlock.

"I have to say thank you to the team because we are looking strong at this point, so I think it's a good start. It's good to be back on track and go racing.

"It's looking really close between us, Ferrari and Red Bull but that was more or less expected. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

"We got some information for the long runs if it's a dry race, we got some tyre data and we can see that a lot of things are behaving differently to testing in Barcelona because it's much warmer and it's a different tarmac. We've definitely learned a lot and we'll keep on learning."

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