Lewis Hamilton favourite for pole position after setting fastest time in practice
No stopping Mercedes driver in Practice Two after stopping on track in P1 and then being stopped by security as he returned to the paddock!
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 14/03/14 11:56am
Lewis Hamilton looks well set to claim pole position at the advent of F1's new turbo era after setting the fastest time in Friday's practice sessions for the Australian GP.
Despite missing the entirety of Practice One after an over-zealous sensor brought his W05 to a juddering halt on its first installation lap, and then suffering the mild aggravation of an equally over-zealous security guard demanding the kitted-out Mercedes driver produce his paddock pass when he was chauffeured back to the paddock, Hamilton was quick to recover his poise and pace in the afternoon running.
A lap of 1:29.625, delivered on his first run on the soft compound, propelled Hamilton above team-mate Nico Rosberg to the top of the timesheets and offered compelling endorsement of his pre-season billing as favourite for the 2014 Drivers' World Championship.
"It would have been great to have P1 but I got enough running in P2 and I feel comfortable in the car. It was a good day, I got a good understanding of the track and the car, and I feel positive," Hamilton told Sky Sports News.
"To be honest, I've not looked at anyone else today. Going into P2 I felt very uncomfortable, I felt very raw, but fortunately I could get up to speed quickly."
Speed, of course, has always been Hamilton's pre-eminent forte, and his challenge in 2014 may well prove balancing his instinct to race flat out against the ramped-up demands of fuel and engine conservation. Hamilton, though, bristles with indignation at the notion that he might be penalised if F1 becomes a thinking driver's game.
"It doesn't matter whether I like it or not, I just need to deal with it," the 2008 World Champion declared of the new regulations in a sit-down interview with Sky Sports F1.
"I just want to be the best with it and the first to get on top of it and then stay ahead. The good thing about F1 is that the goalposts are always moving, particularly this year with the new cars. It's almost like a PlayStation game at the same time as trying to drive the perfect lap. You need a degree to understand the steering wheel and I've had to do a lot studying."
So far, so good, with Hamilton's instant response to his morning setback suggesting that, thanks to that extracurricular homework and with his personal life settled, he is in good shape mentally for a season that is likely to be littered with dips and difficulties as the field tackles their ultra-complicated new chargers and a slate-cleaning rules revolution.
Qualifying starts at 6am on Saturday morning with Sky Sports F1's coverage underway from 5am.
2014 Australian GP, Practice Two timesheet:
1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:29.625.
2. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1:29.782.
3. Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 1:30.132.
4. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:30.381.
5. Jenson Button, McLaren, 1:30.510.
6. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1:30.538.
7. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:30.898.
8. Valtteri Bottas, Williams, 1:30.920.
9. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren, 1:31.031.
10. Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, 1:31.054.
11. Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, 1:31.060.
12. Felipe Massa, Williams, 1:31.119.
13. Sergio Perez, Force India, 1:31.283.
14. Adrian Sutil, Sauber, 1:32.355.
15. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber, 1:32.468.
16. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso, 1:32.495.
17. Jules Bianchi, Marussia, 1:33.486.
18. Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 1:33.646.
19. Max Chilton, Marussia, 1:34.757.
20. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, No time.
21. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, No time.
22. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus, No time.