Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc are 'free to race'

Daniel Ricciardo didn’t have a great start to practice

Leclerc, who joins Ferrari in just his second season in F1 after impressing for Sauber a year ago, said: "I completely understand the decision".

Team principal Mattia Binotto has said Ferrari might give Vettel priority so they could avoid "mistakes you may have in an ambitious situation".

"But having said that obviously we can't do better than last year's result. We've been trying to plan with the team all my sponsor events a bit more in advance so I can plan my calendar a bit more around it, all the details in terms of travel, logistics, hotels, everything to help my wellbeing and performance, same thing with the training we try again to improve from a year ago". "Fun is to win a lot of races and then ultimately you are fighting for the championship", said the 31-year-old, who won four successive world championships at Red Bull from 2010-2013.

"To be completely honest, these 50-50 situations, when the time will come I will probably be let know in the auto", he said. "Most of it is going to be up to me if I make it or not, and that's a good feeling". His team-mate Valtteri Bottas was forced to hand a race victory to the Briton in Russian Federation past year at a crucial phase of the season.

Bottas says the key to his new approach will be being more guarded with his time to ensure he is in the best possible position at the start of each race weekend to maximise results. "It was said back at the factory and repeated [in a team meeting] today and that's how I like it".

Mercedes struggled to find a suitable vehicle balance in the opening week and while the team's fortunes appeared to improve with a raft of aerodynamic updates introduced for week two, Hamilton suggested that the gap to Ferrari was "potentially half a second" after the final day of pre-season testing.

"It was quite clear, but it is hard to know what everyone's doing [in pre-season testing]", the world champion said.

"Usually over the first few races is when you really get an idea of where everyone stands".

Vettel added: "We won't win it here and we won't lose it here. Hopefully we will have a strong package that carries us all the way to fight for it".

Ferrari won the Australian GP in 2018 and they could be a bit quicker once again. We've been trying to plan with the team all my sponsor events a bit more in advance so I can plan my calendar a bit more around it, all the details in terms of travel, logistics, hotels, everything to help my wellbeing and performance. "We'll have a much better understanding of it - but I think it's the same for everyone". [And] I think it's a case of adding pure performance, but even then we know we haven't unlocked the full potential of the auto.

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