x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Hamilton avoids the rain to set pace in Melbourne

The McLaren driver and his teammate Jenson Button are the fastest cars in the second practice at Albert Park.

Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in a rain-interrupted session in Melbourne.
Lewis Hamilton set the fastest time in a rain-interrupted session in Melbourne.

Lewis Hamilton is confident he and his McLaren-Mercedes teammate Jenson Button will be more competitive in Australia this weekend than they were at the season-opening race in Bahrain after the pair dominated the second session of free practice in Melbourne today. Hamilton topped the timesheet ahead of Button in a rain-disrupted session round the Albert Park circuit to complete a pleasing day for the British team ahead of tomorrow's qualifying. Their performance was in contrast to rivals Ferrari as Fernando Alonso ? who won in Bahrain a fortnight ago ? and teammate Felipe Massa were 15th and 17th fastest respectively. Hamilton qualified fourth in the opening race and immediately declared himself overwhelmed with that performance but admitted a repeat in qualifying tomorrow would be disappointing. "Definitely not," said the 25-year-old when asked if he would be happy with fourth place on the grid. "We are going to be pushing for higher than that. "We have definitely made some improvements [since Bahrain]. The feeling for the one lap on fuel feels better for us so that is what we try to work on and I feel comfortable that tomorrow in qualifying we should be able to attack the guys at the front." Teammate and reigning world champion Button was also buoyed by his performance in practice but believes it may still be a little too early to know whether they will challenge with the Ferraris and Red Bulls tomorrow. "We are making steps forward but I still don't know where we are," he said. "It's only practice and I'm sure we're lighter than some of the quick cars out there, the cars that were quick in Bahrain. "But tomorrow we'll see where we actually stand. It's important for us to be doing what we are, to get a good balance with the car and a good feeling with the car." Red Bull's Mark Webber enjoyed an encouraging session by going third fastest as he looks to claim victory at his home race. However, the 33-year-old believes the sporadic spells of rain made it difficult to truly get the most from the session. "It is pretty much the team's worst nightmare when the weather is just on edge like that," he said. "You cannot commit to learning too much in the wet and it is quite tricky in the dry as well. We had a couple of windows where we got some information though, so we have good data for tonight." Michael Schumacher outpaced Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg for the first time in practice this season as he finished fourth and the 41-year-old is feeling optimistic about the weekend. "All in all, we learned a lot and we could improve the set up of our car quite reasonably," he said. "In the end our times were competitive so I think we can look forward to the rest of the weekend." * PA Sport