Melbourne - Defending Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes at the first free practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday, edging Ferrari in an eventful session.
The Briton lapped Albert Park in one minute 23.599 seconds, pipping championship rival Sebastian Vettel by 0.038 seconds on a warm and sunny afternoon at the lakeside circuit.
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.
Max Verstappen was fourth quickest for Red Bull, less than two-tenths of a second shy of Hamilton.
Hamilton's team-mate Valtteri Bottas was fifth quickest but the Finn, under pressure to keep his race seat, blew a chance to improve his time with a spin off the track, one of a number of incidents as teams struggled to get to grips with their cars.