Lewis Hamilton says he is relieved Mercedes was able to begin the 2018 Formula 1 season where it left off last year, having set the pace during Friday practice for the Australian Grand Prix. 

The reigning world champion made the best start possible at Albert Park by topping both of Friday’s practice sessions, underlining the pre-season notion that it would be Mercedes who headed into the new campaign as strong title favourites.

Hamilton led teammate Valtteri Bottas by 0.5s in opening practice, before Max Verstappen closed to within just 0.127s of the Briton’s fastest lap of the day - a 1:23.931s - in FP2. 

“It has been a good day. Coming here to the first race you never really know - you really have no idea what it is going to be like,” the Briton said. 

“You don’t know how you are going to feel physically, how the tyres are going to react to the circuit. But we started on the right foot and got through everything that we needed to.

“It closed up a little bit in P2 in terms of the gap, but that is exciting anyways. It is more challenging for me to drive and eke out a little more from the car. We have to establish if I lost some performance or they all gained. But I enjoyed driving.”

Mercedes had some concerns about tyre blistering after encountering issues during pre-season testing at Barcelona, however, Hamilton said he experienced no such problems in the higher temperatures at Melbourne. 

“The tyres definitely didn’t seem to have the issue that we had after Barcelona, where they were just blistering the whole time. So it felt a lot more normal. But obviously the car is quicker here than it was last year, so it feels better everywhere. 

“Turns 11 and 12 are just crazy! We are not even braking into that corner, it is insane! But we are going to get quicker and quicker through the weekend. Well if it does not rain.”

While Hamilton believes predicted cooler temperatures for Saturday would benefit Mercedes, he expressed some concerns over how well Pirelli’s full wet tyre compound will work.