Hamilton and Vettel ready to do battle once more

Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes performance similar to Barcelona- Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton Mercedes performance similar to Barcelona- Hamilton

In response to the reigning champion, Charles Leclerc gave an indication of what the Ferrari was capable of, recording a lap of one minute 23.673 seconds, before Vettel went four-hundredths of a second quicker for second place with one minute 23.637 seconds.

In fact, the team was second fastest during Friday's practice, with drivers Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly outpaced by only Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas in the second session.

Verstappen's attacking style and sheer pace has seen him long tipped to become a future world champion and Red Bull showed their faith with a contract that pays him only less than multiple-time world champions Hamilton and Vettel and the bumper deal Ricciardo signed with Renault.

"The rumours are they found 15 kilowatts over the winter - that's potentially half the deficit to Mercedes and Ferrari".

After topping the timesheets in Friday's initial 90-minute practice, Hamilton backed up in the next session to go nearly a second faster.

Ricciardo joined Renault ahead of the 2019 season, having spent five seasons with the Red Bull Racing squad, where he won seven Grands Prix, in the knowledge that he would not be challenging for wins and podiums immediately, but building the team towards that target in future seasons.

No Australian has ever stood on the podium at their home grand Prix - Ricciardo came agonisingly close in 2014 and against a year ago.

"We were not as fast as we maybe would like, but it's Friday so it doesn't matter", he said matter of factly.

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"We still have lots to learn and improve on, but we're getting there".

"Testing was hard to read for us". But Hamilton roared back to sweep 11 of the remaining 19 Grand Prix and the 31-year-old is desperate to turn the tables.

"We didn't really get into the groove and rhythm", he admitted, "and that's quite important around here".

Don't forget, in recent years Ferrari has made a habit of setting the fastest time in pre-season testing, only for Mercedes drivers to claim the world title.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel feel no need to stamp their authority on the new F1 season ahead of the curtain raiser in Australia.

He spun into the grass at one stage after complaining of a reliability problem with his Ferrari.

Toro Rosso new boy Alexander Albon had a troubled introduction to Formula One, losing his front wing in a crash at turn two in the first practice.

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