No problem for Mercedes if Hamilton skydives or surfs

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"We are immensely proud to announce this exciting partnership with the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, which shares numerous same values as St Hugo, a fine wine created to honour the love between a father and son to continue on his winemaking legacy", he said.

They have an unchanged driver line-up this season.

In between, FIA President Jean Todt and Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey attended a news conference with started with a minute of silence in memory of race director Charlie Whiting, who died in Melbourne on Thursday from a pulmonary embolism.

The setback followed a discouraging opening practice session where Ricciardo finished fourth-last in the 20-strong field.

The ever-impressive performances from Ferrari in pre-season testing ensures the Scuderia will arrive as the clear favourite, with Hamilton admitting that the prancing horse is: "Potentially half a second quicker" than the Mercedes. "We didn't really get into the groove and the rhythm".

Vettel was fifth overall following his own trip across the grass at Turn 1 early on, and there was a sense of deja vu as he was closely followed by his former teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

With the cars not out on the track until tomorrow, Ricciardo joined drivers on the Melbourne Walk where they arrive at the back of the pits and spend time signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.

Red Bull will be entering their new Honda era with Dutch hopeful Max Verstappen and Frenchman Pierre Gasly at the helm.

Daniel Ricciardo
Lewis Hamilton relaxed as Briton prepares for Australian Grand Prix

Abiteboul says he hopes to see the drivers working well as a team and indirectly pushing each other to be better. 'This is going to be the toughest battle yet, ' he claimed.

"Mercedes only really pushed it at the end of the test so we will only have the answers in qualifying", he said.

The opening day wasn't without difficulties for Renault - Nico Hulkenberg missed much of the first session with an electronics issue, while Ricciardo had issues fitting into his custom-made seat, the Australian insisting he hadn't been returning for seconds at the buffet.

"We were a bit delayed getting out for both runs - just a few little things with the belts", said the Australian, who ended up eighth overall in second practice.

Not that the 34-year-old has had much time to enjoy it.

Charles Leclerc was down in ninth, 1.154s off, in the second Ferrari, with Haas driver Romain Grosjean rounding out the top 10.

In eight of the last 19 seasons, the victor of the opening Grand Prix has not gone on to become champion. "The short run at the end was okay, the long runs not so good, so still have some things to learn about the auto".

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