Charles Leclerc had a hard session, ending up down in ninth place and over 1.1s off the pace on his soft tire run, and then suffering a slightly unusual spin late in the session.
"I think it [Mercedes' form] was quite clear, however it's hard to know what everyone's doing, so naturally we won't fully know until we get out in the auto tomorrow". "I feel that I have the auto under me, that I had in testing, but it is not doing the same thing here and there and that is why I am lacking confidence".
But all the ability in the world can't mask the fact the auto just isn't good enough. "We got through our programme really well, there were no issues on track".
When Mercedes switched to the red striped compound, Bottas improved by 0.8 seconds to briefly rise above Hamilton, before the reigning champion reclaimed top spot with a 1m22.600s - 0.048s clear of Bottas.
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"We didn't bring a lot of new parts to the auto, but we were able to optimise the package that we have", he said.
"So far the atmosphere is good, the spirit is right within the team and we will try to carry that into the season". Are the red cars keeping something in reserve for qualifying and the race? "It was a bit of a time delay, but I could tell that everyone was getting a bit frustrated".
Ricciardo feels those things could well be learnt from Hulkenberg, whose long-run pace he described as "quite impressive" and which left him encouraged for the weekend ahead.
The German said afterwards it had been "a tricky day". "We had some consistent running in Free Practice 2 and I was certainly growing more comfortable on each run", he explained.
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"It's really nice to get back out on track", Hamilton said.
British-born Thai debutant Alexander Albon also had a tough start, spinning his Toro Rosso at turn two and having a low-impact crash to lose his front wing and cause a brief halt in the session. He slid onto the gravel again in session two and skidded onto the grass. This year also sees a number of new drivers at numerous teams, which makes this first race in Australia all the more interesting.
After the long winter break, a new season of the Formula 1 World Championship is finally upon us.
In between, FIA President Jean Todt and Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey attended a news conference with started with a minute of silence in memory of race director Charlie Whiting, who died in Melbourne on Thursday from a pulmonary embolism.
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