Charles Leclerc headed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in Friday practice at the Australian Grand Prix.
Leclerc ended the session 0.245 seconds ahead of the Dutchman, who appeared to have the potential to go faster had it not been for traffic and some errors.
The second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz was 0.398secs off the pace in third place, ahead of the Fernando Alonso’s Alpine, impressively competitive in fourth.
Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton were only 11th and 13th.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was fifth ahead of the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, McLaren’s Lando Norris, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and the second McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen looked like he had the potential to displace the Ferraris at the top of the timesheets, but encountered traffic on one fast lap and then made a mistake three corners from the end of another when he appeared on target to go fastest.
There was a brief red-flag period towards the end of the session after a piece of bodywork detached itself from Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and had to be retrieved by a marshal.
Stroll’s team-mate Sebastian Vettel did not run in the second session after an engine failure towards the end of the first. The team had planned to change the power-unit but failed to do so in time for the German to return to the track.
Melbourne’s Albert Park track has been modified for F1’s return to Australia after a two-year absence because of the pandemic.
A chicane has been removed and some of the corners reprofiled in an attempt to make the racing more exciting on a circuit that is renowned for the difficulty of overtaking.
But there were no major incidents during the session, although a number of drivers ran off-track and Verstappen was one of those who had a couple of near misses with traffic. The Dutchman suffered particularly on his qualifying simulation run when he had to back out of a fast lap at the 155mph Turns Nine and 10 when cars were running slowly on the racing line ahead of him.
Alonso’s Alpine is fitted with a new engine for this weekend – his third of the season when only three are allowed for the whole championship.
Alpine discovered a problem with Alonso’s engine after the first race in Bahrain and fitted a new one for the second race in Saudi Arabia. That suffered a water-pump failure which caused irreparable damage to the internal combustion engine.
Alonso’s problems mean he will inevitably face grid penalties later in the year for using more than the permitted number of power-unit elements.
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