Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives around the Albert Park circuit during the second Formula One practice session in Melbourne on March 23, 2018, ahead of the Formula One Australian Grand Prix. (AFP / WILLIAM WEST)
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Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton sent an early signal that he could again be the driver to beat in Formula One this season, setting the swiftest time in the Friday's practice sessions at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.After earlier playing down his team's chances against Ferrari and Red Bull, Hamilton set a one-lap time of 1 minute, 23.931 seconds on a bright, clear afternoon at the 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile) Albert Park circuit, and showed superior long-run pace with the lowest average lap time on ultrasoft tires, as well.The gap between Hamilton and Red Bull's Max Verstappen was relatively small, however, with the 20-year-old Dutch driver turning in a fastest lap time of 1:24.058, just over 0.1 behind Hamilton.Hamilton's teammate Valtteri Bottas, who lost practice time after going off the track into the gravel in Friday's second session, was 0.1 second behind Verstappen in third place, followed by the Ferrari cars of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in fourth and fifth, respectively.
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