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Bottas out to make the most of dream chance at Mercedes

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Bottas looks over a frozen lake hard enough to walk on during his pre-season camp in Finland

"It was 99 per cent flawless", Hamilton said.

The only US-owned team is now competing in a US-owned sport.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was the pacesetter in Friday's initial practice session at the Albert Park circuit with his teammate Valtteri Bottas second-quickest.

For the first time since 1994, when Alain Prost retired after winning his fourth title the year before, Formula One will have no reigning champion on the starting grid with Nico Rosberg quitting in December.

And in the past three seasons, Vettel has had to endure watching Hamilton's Mercedes disappear over the horizon as he took his world title tally to three while duelling with Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton predicted ahead of the Australian GP that Ferrari would be the team to beat. Coming into today, we really didn't know where we'd be.

"We're not underestimating them, but it will be tomorrow afternoon that we'll see where we are".

F1 has, of course, often seen periods of dominance by one team ended after a rule change, most recently Red Bull's run of four consecutive championships, which concluded with the last change in 2014.

"It is definitely up there with the top five best races and I think it is a combination of things: the city, the people, the atmosphere, the grandstands are always full, people are out there on the banks with a beer and it is a lovely park", Hamilton said. "As racing drivers in general you want to drive the quickest cars in the world and I think you always want to go faster", the Mercedes driver said.

Liberty Media's takeover and the off-season departure of the sport's veteran commercial ring-master Bernie Ecclestone have coincided with an overhaul of the technical regulations to usher in a new breed of heavier and faster cars.

Hisense is gearing up for its third year as the official team supplier for Red Bull Racing, displaying its technology at the 2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. He was 13th in the opening session and dropped to 16th in the second, nearly three seconds off the pace. "I really hope this will translate to good battles on track". Felipe Massa, who had been seventh in the first session, was stopped by an electrical failure and could only complete five laps in the second session of practise.

The first session was largely incident-free but there were plenty of problems later, with Renault driver Jolyon Palmer having a particularly tough day.

Twice champion Fernando Alonso was 12th fastest in FP2 and may have been buoyed by the result after arriving in Melbourne anxious after a dreary winter testing for the Woking-based team.

The third practice is scheduled for 2 hours before the qualifying session on Saturday.

Daniel Ricciardo called his strong support at the Australian Grand Prix "kind of overwhelming" Thursday, but said it gave him extra motivation to become the race's first Aussie victor in 37 years.

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