Fernando Alonso con el McLaren Honda en Australia.

McLaren-Honda, in practice ahead of the Australian GP, have cut their top speed deficit on the fastest cars by more than 10km/h compared to testing in Barcelona. In practice, Fernando Alonso managed a top speed of 314.5km/h, with Sebastian Vettel going fastest at 321.7km/h, a difference of just 7.2 km/h.

McLaren top speed deficit down to seven km/h

Fernando Alonso in the McLaren-Honda in Australia

McLaren-Honda improvement from testing

That's a huge improvement in terms of the difference between the cars from testing, where Fernando Alonso's top speed was 17.5km/h behind the 332.3km/h set by the Sauber, which runs a Ferrari engine.

However the eagle-eyed of you will have spotted that the top speed of the McLaren-Honda hasn't really improved: it actually managed 314.8km/h in testing.

Albert Park favours McLaren-Honda

While the power output and reliability of Fernando Alonso's McLaren has got better, the big difference is that Albert Park doesn't have as long a straight as Barcelona, meaning McLaren Honda's rivals can't hit their top speed. (And the McLaren is able to get to its top speed in the space available.) The effect of the shorter straight is to bunch the top speeds up as can be seen from the table below, with less than 10 km/h separating the pack. 

Though McLaren would overall just prefer more power, no doubt they'll be happy, at least for now, that the circuit for the opening race is slightly in their favour.

Hamilton takes pole in Australian GP

Top speeds in Free Practice 2: Australian GP

1. S. Vettel Ferrari 321.7
2. L. Hamilton Mercedes 320.9
3. R. Grosjean Haas 320.8
4. K. Raikkonen Ferrari 320.8
5. N. Hulkenberg Renault 320.7
6. L. Stroll Williams 320.1
7. M. Verstappen Red Bull 318.3
8. K. Magnussen Haas 318.2
9. V. Bottas Mercedes 317.4
10. J. Palmer Renault 317.0
11. E. Ocon Force India 316.7
12. D. Ricciardo Red Bull 316.1
13. D. Kvyat Toro Rosso 315.6
14. S. Pérez Force India 315.2
15. F. Massa Williams 314.9
16. F. Alonso McLaren 314.5
17. M. Ericsson Sauber 313.8
18. C. Sainz Toro Rosso 313.6
19. P. Wehrlein Sauber 313.4
20. S. Vandoorne McLaren 312.3
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