Leclerc keeps Ferrari on top in second Melbourne practice

Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images

Leclerc keeps Ferrari on top in second Melbourne practice

Formula 1

Leclerc keeps Ferrari on top in second Melbourne practice

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Charles Lecler kept Ferrari on top in second practice for the Australian Grand Prix, beating Max Verstappen to the top spot by a quarter of a second.

Ferrari had things all its own way for much of the session, the red cars looking clearly more comfortable around the revised circuit layout as Leclerc lowered the day’s benchmark to 1m18.978s.

The one problem in an otherwise clear hour of running came late, when fuel tanks were filled, with Leclerc enduring significant bouncing near the end of the front straight and in particular the long flat-out run between Turn 6 and Turn 9.

A late blast from Verstappen on softs broke up the Scuderia partnership, but he could get to within only 0.245s of the leader.

It had been a scrappy session for Red Bull Racing, whose car never looked as settled around the higher speed circuit. Verstappen complained early over team radio that, “It’s incredibly difficult at high speed. I can’t turn the car in,” and his eventual 22-lap total was the equal second lowest among the drivers who took part in the session ahead of only teammate Sergio Perez.

Carlos Sainz held onto third in the second Ferrari, but Fernando Alonso was a shock inclusion in the top four for Alpine. The Spaniard set a blistering pace early in the session to go 0.559s off the pace to easily head the midfield and even slip ahead of Perez in the second Red Bull Racing car.

Esteban Ocon was 0.864s behind the benchmark in sixth, just 0.2s slower than Perez.

Valtteri Bottas ended the afternoon seventh and a second adrift despite an early run through the gravel.

Lando Norris consolidated McLaren’s improvements from the first session to finish eighth and a tenth behind Bottas, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo close behind in ninth and 10th to complete the top half of the field.

Mercedes’s underwhelming start to the Australian Grand Prix continued with 11th for George Russell, who was 1.2s off the pace. Yuki Tsunoda split him from teammate Lewis Hamilton in 13th, who was a further 0.3s slower.

Lance Stroll was 14th and will see the stewards shortly after the session for two counts of impeding, first for Sainz and later for Hamilton. Sainz was reprimanded after first practice for similarly blocking, and closing speed approaching slow traffic, particularly in the middle sector of the track, seems likely to be a problem during qualifying when cars will be on cool-down laps.

Stroll’s session was later made worse when he lost a bit of his left-front wheel deflector as he clattered over the curbs at Turn 12, causing a brief red flag for the bodywork to be collected by marshals.

Zhou Guanyu was 15th for Alfa Romeo ahead of Kevin Magnussen, his Haas still yet to click with the circuit after two impressive races to open the season.

Alex Albon followed for Williams ahead of Mick Schumacher and Nicholas Latifi.

Sebastian Vettel didn’t set a lap after his power unit failure during first practice. His team attempted to switch engines during the two-hour break but couldn’t complete the work in time to get the German out.

Compounding his pain was a call-up to the stewards room for “unauthorized use of a scooter on the track” during first practice to take himself back to pit lane after his car stopped on track.

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