Lewis Hamilton started the 2019 Formula 1 season by picking up where he left off at the end of last year as he topped opening practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday afternoon for Mercedes.

Defending world champion Hamilton headed the field in FP1 at Albert Park by just three-hundredths of a second from Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in a close-fought session between the top three teams.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers were covered by less than two-tenths of a second at the top of the standings, with Hamilton taking P1 after a best lap of 1m23.599s on the Soft compound tyre.

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Hamilton's lap saw him edge out perennial rival Vettel by 0.038 seconds, with new Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc taking third, a further three-hundredths of a second back from his teammate.

Max Verstappen was able to make a strong start to Red Bull's partnership with Honda in 2019 as he finished fourth, 0.193s shy of Hamilton at the head of the timesheets.

Valtteri Bottas was able to take fifth place for Mercedes despite a late scare, touching the grass and almost hitting the wall at the final chicane when on a hot lap. The Finn was able to avoid any contact and return to the pits.

Kimi Raikkonen finished as the leading midfield driver for Alfa Romeo in sixth ahead of Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat - who set his best lap on the Medium tyre - while Pierre Gasly took P8 in his first official session for Red Bull.

Kevin Magnussen placed ninth for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who lost the majority of his session to an electrical issue, leaving teammate Daniel Ricciardo to pick up the bulk of the team's FP1 work. Ricciardo ended the session 17th overall.

The session was interrupted by a red flag with 20 minutes left on the clock when Alexander Albon spun off, causing damage to the front and rear of his Toro Rosso STR14.

In his first F1 practice session, Albon spun rearwards into the wall at Turn 2 before his car spun around and lost its front wing with a secondary impact, leaving the car stranded in the middle of the track. Albon was able to get the car going again and return to the pits under his own power, allowing the session to swiftly resume.

Second practice for the Australian Grand Prix begins at 5am GMT in Melbourne.

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