Hamilton: Mercedes "not talking BS" about Ferrari deficit

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Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheet ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, while 2019 pre-season favourites Ferrari ended fifth and ninth in second practice ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.

The remaining field were at least 0.8 seconds behind, with Max Verstappen clocking one minute 23.400 for third, followed by Red Bull teammate Pierre Gasly 0.042 seconds further back.

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.

Just hours after making the comment in Spain, Hamilton went out and posted a best time within 0.010s of Vettel's best, while this morning both Mercedes were over 0.8s clear of the Ferrari.

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.

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton claimed the Formula One titles in 2018 yet appeared pessimistic ahead of the new campaign, with Vettel's Ferrari impressing in testing in Barcelona.

Things improved for Ricciardo in second practice, at the end of which he had run another 31 laps and jumped up to eighth place - a second off the leading pace, but within a tenth of Hulkenberg.

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Ahead of qualifying this afternoon Wide World of Sports looks at the big issues raised by the first two practice sessions.

Hamilton, whose first win of last season came in Azerbaijan in round four, said he did not feel as if he needed to grab the new campaign by the scruff of the neck. Are the red cars keeping something in reserve for qualifying and the race?

"It was a tricky day for us - it was probably a tricky day for everyone".

"We are not yet where we would like to be, not in terms of lap time but more in terms of auto feel and handling".

"If we can get that confidence and that groove back, there is a lot of lap time in that around here", he added. This year also sees a number of new drivers at numerous teams, which makes this first race in Australia all the more interesting.

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.