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F1 Australian GP: Hamilton quickest between the showers in FP1

Lewis Hamilton sets the early pace in FP1 for the Australian Grand Prix, but intermittent showers keep the form book closed.
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Lewis Hamilton has topped the first free practice session of the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship season after squeezing in the fastest time between intermittent showers for the Australian Grand Prix FP1.

With wet conditions greeting the drivers at Albert Park following heavy overnight rains, conditions would ebb and flow over the course of the FP1 session, dry patches quickly emerging, only to be dampened again by light-to-heavy rain over the 90 minutes.

It kept track time limited during the early stages, most drivers settling for an installation lap only in the opening hour. Teams were eventually satisfied the circuit had dried enough to venture out on slick rubber over the course of the final 30mins, despite showers in the air.

Seemingly the best opportunity for drivers to set a fast time would come around 15mins before the end of the session as those sampling slick rubber sprung to the top of the timesheets, headed by Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo. However, while drizzle sent drivers scuttling back to the pit lane with 11mins to go, a hardy few would come back out with 5mins remaining in an effort to put in a final lap dash on a warming track.

Daniil Kvyat unsettled Hamilton to lead the way briefly, only for the defending world champion to move back ahead with a time of 1min 29.725secs – around three seconds off his own pole position time from 2015.

The timing would prove ideal, with heavy rain at the back of the circuit starting up again and forcing the slick shod cars to reduce pace again.

As such, Hamilton would be classified on top, ahead of Red Bull duo Kvyat and Ricciardo, though the latter would fall foul of the worsening conditions when he slid into the gravel at turn 12.

Nico Hulkenberg was fourth fastest in the session for Force India, ahead of Max Verstappen – who suffered a spin at turn six, Nico Rosberg – who was on a fast lap when the rain started -, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Buton, Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen.

Further back, Sebastian Vettel completed eight laps without setting a time, while Carlos Sainz – having championed his Toro Rosso's reliability over the winter – failed to complete a lap after hitting technical issues.

by Ollie Barstow

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