Lewis Hamilton remained quickest in the second practice session for the Australian Grand Prix as the top three teams were covered by less than 0.3s.
Having topped the opening session by over half a second – in a repeat of 12 months ago – Hamilton set the pace in FP2 with a 1m23.931s as teams finally carried out comparable running on the same tire. With the ultrasoft used by all of the teams, Hamilton was just 0.127s clear of Max Verstappen as the Red Bull set the fastest final sector.
The three track sectors all saw different teams boast the quickest time, with Kimi Raikkonen – fourth overall on a 1m24.214s – setting the pace in the middle sector while Hamilton was fastest in sector one. With Valtteri Bottas in third, it all added up to the top three teams being separated by 0.283s.
While the two Finns were only 0.055s apart in terms of overall lap time, they were nearly as close on track at one stage as Bottas locked up approaching a slower Raikkonen at Turn 3, causing the Mercedes to take a trip across the gravel. The pair were summoned to the stewards after the session with Raikkonen facing a potential penalty for impeding.
Sebastian Vettel was fifth fastest, 0.520s slower than Hamilton and less than 0.2s clear of the very impressive Ferrari customer team as Romain Grosjean put Haas sixth on the timing screens. Grosjean was 0.717s off the overall pace but was set to drop behind Daniel Ricciardo before the Australian was forced to abort his ultrasoft tire run due to a red flag.
The stoppage was caused by some debris on the start finish line – what appeared to be wire that had been pulled up – resulting in a short delay while it was removed. The majority of teams then focused on long runs, with only Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen going for attempts to improve lower fuel times.
Alonso was eighth quickest but didn’t improve on his lap time from before the stoppage and was over 1.2s slower than Hamilton, while Magnussen was just 0.046s further back in ninth. Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top 10 and was also within 0.1s of his teammate as the midfield remained tight.
Behind Vandoorne, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll all ensured there were five teams covered by less than 0.35s, while Esteban Ocon was just 0.1s ahead of the two Toro Rossos having had his own excursion across the gravel at Turn 3.
Sauber again was off the pace of the rest of the field, with Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc separated by just 0.001s but some 2.8s off the overall pace and over 0.8s adrift of Sergey Sirotkin in 18th.
Ultrasoft @pirellisport tyres ✅
Limits pushed ?
Faster lap times ⏱
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 23, 2018