Six-times Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton says he is taking Mercedes’ strong start to the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix “with a pinch of salt” despite dominating Friday practice.

Hamilton proved the class of the field as F1 kickstarted with the long-awaited resumption of the delayed 2020 season in Austria by leading consecutive Mercedes 1-2s in both practice sessions at the Red Bull Ring.

Mercedes finished the opening day of running well clear of its rivals, with Racing Point emerging as its nearest challengers over half a second behind, while Ferrari and Red Bull were well off the pace of the reigning world champion squad throughout FP1 and FP2.

“It was great to be back,” Hamilton said. “It’s been a long time coming, so feels great to feel the new car since February, quite a big difference to the car we got to test at Silverstone.

“I don’t remember what I was like in February to be honest, honestly it was so long ago.

"What’s positive is the car felt good today, definitely feels like in general compared to last year we have continued to improve the car and that is a positive.”

Asked if he feels Mercedes has the edge over its rivals, Hamilton replied: “It’s difficult to say,”

“It’s definitely looking good out there but you can never take too much from practice and if you look at some of the other teams they were maybe down on power modes or up on power modes or fuel or whatever it may be.

“So we’ll take it with a pinch of salt, try to improve the car tonight and come back with it tomorrow.”

Bottas, who could only get within 0.197s of Hamilton all day, agreed with his teammate that it is far too early to suggest that Mercedes is in a league of its own.

“We see the threat,” he said. “It’s only Friday, it’s only practice and I don’t think any team has yet taken out all the performance they have.

“I’m sure, like I said, the lap times will come down tomorrow, from the track but also from the teams and the drivers’ side, so, it’s way too early to say. But it’s not too bad right now.”