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Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel sounded an early alarm bell for Ferrari at Formula One's season-opening Australian Grand Prix, saying he was lacking confidence in his auto after a disappointing run in Friday practice.

After pipping Vettel with a lap of one minute 23.599 seconds in the first practice, Hamilton shaved nearly a second off that in FP2, his quickest lap clocked at 1:22.600.

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.

Vettel was not far off the pace of the Red Bulls in the second session but he slid through the grass and complained of handling problems on the team radio.

The Italian team looked to have a comfortable advantage during testing in Spain, with some estimates suggesting Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc had a auto that was half a second per lap quicker than their nearest rivals.

Vettel's rookie team mate Charles Leclerc was third fastest, 0.074 seconds slower than Hamilton, raising hopes of a proper battle between the championship's leading teams.

Kimi Raikkonen was strong on his Alfa Romeo debut, splitting Vettel from Renault teammates Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, the triumvirate around a second off Hamilton's pace.

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The pair were very much on the pace in the first practice session yesterday, with both drivers within eight-hundredths of a second of Lewis Hamilton's best time.

"When we get to Q2 and they start to crank the engines up, that's when the story will start to unfold of where are Honda". Both Ferrari and Mercedes will be giving it everything, and we'll get our first true indication of where exactly they stand. The forecast is for warmer conditions for Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race. "We had some consistent running in Free Practice 2 and I was certainly growing more comfortable on each run", he explained.

The Formula 1 season has begun again, with faster cars, new rules, and new line-ups.

Bottas said the auto felt better than during testing.

"It's really nice to get back out on track", Hamilton said.

In between the practice sessions, FIA President Jean Todt and Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey attended a news conference which started with a minute of silence in memory of F1 race director Charlie Whiting, who died in Melbourne early Thursday from a pulmonary embolism.