Hamilton qualified fifth on the grid for F1’s first race in Melbourne in three years but ended up almost a full second off the pace of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who took pole position ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen

The seven-time world champion was pleased with the result given he was only 13th-fastest at the end of practice on Friday as Mercedes’ early season struggles showed no signs of coming to an end at Albert Park.

Hamilton’s was full of praise for his team’s hard work to turn things around overnight in Melbourne but admitted he is finding the W13 very tricky to drive. 

“Compared to yesterday and also compared to the last race for me, it’s nice to be back up there,” Hamilton said. “Jeddah was really, really tough to be so far back and not really be able to make a lot of progress. 

“Yesterday was a difficult day, we had a bigger deficit but we worked hard through the night. Everyone back at the factory was working hard to find out where we could go with the set-up and I think we’ve extracted the most from the car today. 

“I feel like my lap, there was a little bit more in the car, so that’s a positive. I’m also naturally gutted I wasn’t able to extract that little bit. 

“The problem is, when you push that car just a little bit more, she’s quite spiteful. She’s like a viper or a rattlesnake.” 

Porpoising giving Mercedes a headache 

Hamilton outpaced George Russell by less than a tenth of a second but revealed Mercedes is trialing something on his car which makes it slightly heavier than his teammate’s.

“We just have to try and find a level of the bouncing,” he explained. “As hardcore as we can go without rattling our brains out I suppose. And that’s what we tried to do. 

“He [Russell] and I have slightly different cars, a slight difference as we’re trying all the different things. I’ve got something in my car that makes the car a little bit heavier but it’s not a huge, huge step. 

“But hopefully it will enable the team to gain more information from the race tomorrow, so I hope from that we can start making some progress.”

Russell echoed Hamilton’s comments about Mercedes’ porpoising problem, conceding it is preventing him from having the confidence to extract the maximum out of his car. 

“The biggest thing for me at the moment is just still the bouncing,” he said. “I’ve been trying all sorts of things to be on the limit of the bouncing, and then it's costing me a lot of speed through the high speed corners. That’s where I lose all my lap time. 

“To be honest, I don't have the confidence to attack with the bouncing. And you know, it's such a unique feeling from within the car, and when the car is going up and down, up and down, you cannot throw it into these high speed corners. So it's tricky to find the right compromise.

"I think I was probably in a bit more of an aggressive setup compared to Lewis and quicker in some corners, but then losing all of my lap time in that. So we don't know what the best compromise is currently."