Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton started as he will hope to go on in 2016 by setting the pace in the first free practice session of the season in Australia on Friday.
FP1 for the Australian Grand Prix proved to be a damp affair, with rain coming and going throughout the session to limit the drivers to short windows of meaningful on-track running.
Overnight rain left the track wet to begin with until a short break in the weather allowed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to rise to P1 with a dry-tire lap.
Rain soon returned before easing again with just under 20 minutes to go in the session, sparking a flurry of lap times from the drivers, many of whom had bided their time in the pits for much of FP1.
Hamilton took full advantage of the dry window to topple Ricciardo, only for a final dry front to come through in the dying moments of the session and give drivers a late chance to improve.
The Briton found a further six-tenths of a second to end the session P1 with a best lap of 1:29.725, leaving him 0.4 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat in second place.
Ricciardo ended the session in third place, although his running did come to an early end when he beached his Red Bull in the gravel at the end of the session when more rain hit the track.
A number of drivers struggled with the changeable conditions throughout the session, including Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Manor’s Rio Haryanto who spun. Max Verstappen also lost control of his Toro Rosso at one point, but was able to recover to fifth place behind Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.
Nico Rosberg finished sixth in the second Mercedes ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, while Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10.
FP1 saw Haas F1 Team make its grand prix weekend debut as both Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean got out to complete some laps in the VF-16 car, finishing 18th and 20th respectively.
Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr. were the only drivers not to post a time, with the latter coming to a stop in the pit lane 30 minutes in to FP1.
Second practice for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 1:30am ET on Friday.