Recapping all of the news and notes from the Albert Park paddock on Friday, here is Michael Lamonato's notebook.

– Mercedes dominated Friday's Formula 1 practice running in Melbourne, leading Red Bull Racing and Ferrari by more than 0.8 seconds. The results were suspicious, however — though Mercedes improved by around a second between the closely matched FP1 and the blowout in FP2, Ferrari and RBR improved by only two or three tenths, suggesting the latter two teams were hiding their pace.

– Friday practice proved conclusively that the 2019 cars are faster than their 2018 versions despite regulation changes made over the off-season that should have slowed them down through a reduction in downforce. The fastest Friday time at this year’s Australian Grand Prix was 1.3 seconds quicker than the best Friday time at last year’s race — both set by Hamilton — and most teams are lapping at least one second faster than they were 12 months ago.

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- In fact, Hamilton hasn't been beaten in a Friday session in Melbourne since 2015, with his peculiar record remaining intact for another year.

– Williams brought an updated car to Melbourne after the FW42 was found to be non-compliant with the regulations during preseason testing. A modified front suspension and new mirrors addressed the problems in time for Friday practice.

– It didn’t do the British team much good performance-wise, however, and it endured a dispiriting confirmation of its 2019 predicament. The team’s best time of the day — George Russell’s 1m26.453s, more than 3.8 seconds slower than Hamilton’s FP2 benchmark — was almost a second slower than its best effort in the same session last year.

- However, fears of the team possibly failing to qualify by running outside the 107 percent time seem unfounded. Both Russell and teammate Robert Kubica were within 105 percent in Friday's session.

– There was an early Honda scare for Red Bull Racing on Pierre Gasly’s car, which the Frenchman said lost power late in FP2 and forced him back to the pits. Honda reportedly cleared the power unit to run on Saturday, citing only a minor issue.

– After two sessions of practice Pirelli estimated a gap of 0.6 seconds between the hard (C2) and the medium (C3) tyres and 0.9 seconds between the medium and the soft (C4) tyres, although Mario Isola noted that the gap between the latter compounds should shrink if the forecast hotter temperatures come to pass on the weekend due to increased degradation on the softs.

– There were laughs aplenty in the team principals press conference, particularly about Netflix series Drive to Survive, the success of which team bosses continue to find amusing. Despite his team not appearing in the series “for some reasons”, Mercedes boss Toto joked that it had been good for Gunther Steiner because it made him look like “a decent guy”.

– Brexit also came up for discussion in the Friday press conference. Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto deftly dismissed concerns by reminding the sport that his team is based in Italy, though he noted his England-based rivals were clearly worried. Toto Wolff quipped that the goings-on at Westminster were even more entertaining than Drive to Survive.

– Jean Todt, Chase Carey and Ross Brawn held a special press conference between practice sessions to open the season. Jean Todt delivered an emotional tribute to Charlie Whiting before conducting a moment’s silence.

– Chase Carey said part of the 2021 regulation discussions were aimed at making the sport more attractive to new entrants after Jean Todt was reported as saying he’d like to see 12 teams in the sport. Both agreed that the quality of teams was more important than the quantity, however.

– Todt added that a “global package” of commercial and technical frameworks would be presented to the Strategy Group and F1 Commission on 26 March, including const control measures.

– Chase Carey said he was having “good discussions” with Mexico about the country’s contract beyond this season, though admitted things had changed at the popular race. He refused to be drawn further, emphasising he wants discussions to continue privately.

– In administrative matters, the FIA has delayed the deadline to tender for common gearbox parts for the 2021–24 seasons until 19 March — in case you were considering putting in a bid.

Additional reporting by Luke Smith.



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