Ferrari's Carlos Sainz Jr. in action during practice. Image Credit: Reuters

Melbourne: Carlos Sainz ruthlessly outpaced Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc and world champion Max Verstappen to clock the fastest time in opening practice at the Australian Grand Prix today. The second pratice session is now currently underway.

The Spaniard powered round a revamped Albert Park circuit under clear skies with a best time of one minute 19.806 seconds among his 24 laps, largely on soft tyres.

Early championship leader Leclerc, who won the season-opening race in Bahrain, was half a second slower on 1:20.377, fractionally ahead of Red Bull’s Serio Perez. Verstappen was fourth, 0.82secs off Sainz.

Slow start

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was seventh as his slow start to the season with Mercedes continued, more than a second behind Sainz.

Haas driver Mick Schumacher, who had a spectacular crash in Jeddah, was slowest, while four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel’s return to action after missing Bahrain and Saudi Arabia with Covid went badly wrong.