sport

Hamilton happy after poor start

Lewis Hamilton was left to reflect on "a day of two halves" to start the new F1 season which ultimately left him with a smile on his face.

Hamilton recovered from the misery of completing just half a lap on his opening run around Melbourne's Albert Park to move to the top of the timesheet at the end of Friday practice for the curtain-raising Australian Grand Prix.

Inside the opening five minutes of the first session, and on his maiden installation lap, Hamilton's Mercedes ground to a halt due to a sensor calibration problem that cut out the new-for-2014 power unit that had required a change prior to the start.

For Hamilton, that was it until the beginning of FP2 in which he made up for lost time and underlined his status as championship favourite in the wake of Mercedes' impressive form in pre-season testing.

The 29-year-old completed 37 laps - only three drivers managed more - and was quickest to boot with a time of one minute 29.625secs.

Hamilton said: "While it was disappointing to not get any track time this morning, these little hiccups are going to happen with the new cars and we'll have to get used to that.

"It felt like I was on the back foot from there, but then we got up to pace quite quickly in P2 and found the balance relatively fast.

"I feel quite comfortable in the car, so overall it's a positive start, but we need to look at the data now and understand where we are.

"We got a nice foundation for the weekend in the second session so hopefully we can build on that in P3 and then see where we are in qualifying."

Mercedes appear strong because Hamilton and team-mate Nico Rosberg were a second quicker than any of their rivals on long-run pace.

Over one lap, Rosberg finished 0.157secs adrift of Hamilton, with the duo comfortably ahead of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull and McLaren's Jenson Button.

Vettel completed a session-high 40 laps, a veritable triumph given Red Bull were one of the teams worst affected by pre-season gremlins.

The reigning four-times champion had also sat out the opening 50 minutes of FP1 as his engineers changed the floor on his seemingly troublesome car.

With new team-mate Daniel Ricciardo sixth fastest, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for Red Bull.

Vettel said: "In a way it's a relief, the fact that we were running, we didn't have any problems, the balance was good and the performance looked all right.

"In the end Friday times are not worth a lot, but it's better to be close to the top rather than somewhere towards the back, so I'm very happy with that.

"We will do what we can to prepare for Saturday and Sunday, but let's see where we are then - the most important thing is we finish."

Surprisingly, Williams pairing Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa were eighth and 12th respectively, despite their pre-season standing as second favourites for the constructors' crown.

Although the sessions were not as chaos strewn as perhaps had been anticipated, there are two teams in serious trouble - Caterham and Lotus.

The two Renault customers managed a combined total of just 17 laps across the four cars due to a range of problems for Caterham duo Kamui Kobayashi and rookie Marcus Ericsson and Lotus pair Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.