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Australian GP: Splitter damage caused Hamilton's off

Lewis Hamilton, MercedesLewis Hamilton's off during the second free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix was caused by splitter damage.

The Mercedes driver ploughed into the gravel at Turn 6 in the closing stages of the 90-minute session after losing front-end downforce.

"I had separation of the front splitter, so it was pushed right up underneath and touching the underneath of the chassis," said Hamilton.

"I lost a lot of front end. I went into Turn 6, turned in and nothing really happened, I just went straight on.

"I was complaining of shed-loads of understeer as I was beginning my long run. I came in and asked for three holes in the front wing, which is quite a lot.

"As they did that, they changed tyres and I went back out. I was braking, turned in and it just didn't turn.

"I thought to myself, 'what an idiot', but when I got back they explained to me that the front of the bib underneath the chassis was broken."

Hamilton admitted that the damage might have been caused when he took a bite of the gravel earlier in the session.

But he was relieved that there was no more significant damage to the car.

"Potentially, it was when I went wide," he said when asked about the cause of the damage.

"Thankfully, nothing was really damaged [in the off]. It's an easy fix."

Hamilton ended the session in seventh, 0.864 seconds off the pace, but Nico Rosberg gave a clearer indication of the potential of the Mercedes by lapping third fastest, just four-tenths off pacesetter Sebastian Vettel.

Lewis Hamilton, MercedesHamilton admitted that he was surprised with the pace of the car, but downplayed suggestions that Mercedes is now best of the rest behind Red Bull.

"We are not massively off the Red Bulls, which is incredible and shows what a great job all the guys back in the factory have done," said Hamilton.

"There have been a couple of issues, which we are going to work hard to fix, but I don't think it's anything that we can't.

"I wasn't expecting to be as competitive as we were, that's a huge plus.

"It's too early to say that we are best of the rest but we are definitely up there. I'm massively happy."

AUTOSPORT Australian GP coverage:

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