Formula One: Lewis Hamilton wins the first round against Nico Rosberg

Lewis Hamilton led his team-mate Nico Rosberg by more than a third of a second in practice yesterday

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The Independent Online

Nico Rosberg might feel he has the mental edge over Lewis Hamilton after the recent Canadian Grand Prix, but yesterday the Englishman delivered a couple of blows in their fight for supremacy at Mercedes,

First, he beat Rosberg narrowly when they were running Pirelli’s soft-compound tyres in practice for tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix. But it was when they switched to the supersoft compound that he really hammered home his speed. As he produced a lap of 1min 9.542sec on his first proper run, Rosberg managed only an embarrassing 1:10.399. Later, he made amends with 1:09.919, but Hamilton’s 0.377sec advantage was telling.

This is the era of telemetry, however, and team rules say everything is shared, so Rosberg had the chance last night to examine where he was losing out, just as Hamilton would were the roles reversed. Which means he may be able to steal back the advantage as he did in Canada after Hamilton dominated practice.

“It didn’t feel bad out there today considering this is a new track to me,” Hamilton said. “After the first few laps I was feeling comfortable and seemed to be finding time with new lines and improvements. To be as quick as I was considering others have already driven this track is a great feeling. If the car is like this for the race, I’m in a good place, and the goal will be pole.”

Technical problems look the only hope for Mercedes’ rivals. Fernando Alonso’s third-fastest time may have flattered Ferrari, who often fall back on Saturday. Red Bull were only sixth and eighth-fastest with Sebastian Vettel and the Canadian GP winner, Daniel Ricciardo.

Jenson Button played down expectations after his seventh-fastest time in the McLaren, saying, “The media always look for miracles, but they rarely happen.”