Is Leclerc a real threat? What happened in Australian GP FP2

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Charles Leclerc was the star of a second practice session of the Australian Grand Prix Formula 1 weekend that again featured multiple drivers suffering off-track moments.

Ferrari driver Leclerc was a notable 0.381 seconds clear of championship leader Max Verstappen on single lap pace, with just over half a second covering the nine cars behind Leclerc in a congested top 10.

The session-best time of 1m17.211s only featured a personal best from Leclerc in the final sector, though his previous benchmark time – a 1m17.423s, which would still have been good enough for top spot – included the fastest overall times in the other two sectors.

That was made more impressive considering Verstappen, who sat out the first 20 minutes of the session as Red Bull changed the floor on his RB20 following an off-track excursion exiting the Turn 9/10 Esses, set his best time of the session far later on.

But perhaps most encouraging for Leclerc and Ferrari was his long-run pace on the medium tyres used en masse by the frontrunners.

Long run simulations

First five laps, all mediums

Leclerc: 1m23.016s; 1m22.832s; 1m22.990s; 1m23.006s; 1m23.047s*
Sainz: 1m23.210s; 1m23.171s; 1m22.667s; 1m24.992s; 1m23.849s**
Piastri: 1m23.517s; 1m22.810s; 1m22.319s; 1m22.405s; 1m22.751s
Verstappen: 1m23.503s; 1m23.947s; 1m23.068s
Perez: 1m23.122s; 1m22.731s; 1m22.596s; 1m23.200s; 1m24.234s***
Russell: 1m24.173s; 1m23.840s; 1m23.321s; 1m23.707s; 1m23.758s
Stroll: 1m23.431s; 1m23.210s; 1m22.842s; 1m23.133s; 1m23.006s

*1m27.599s outlier on fourth lap removed
**1m25.884s outlier on fifth lap removed
***1m27.461s outlier on fourth lap removed

Though Verstappen’s late start to the session and subsequent performance runs left him time to complete only three laps of his long run simulation, Leclerc’s single-lap advantage appeared to translate when race fuel was applied towards the end of the session.

He had a clear advantage over team-mate Carlos Sainz, making his return to the Ferrari cockpit this weekend after appendicitis ruled him out of the Saudi Arabian GP mid-weekend a fortnight ago.

Sainz was half a tenth shy of Verstappen’s time, with the Aston Martins of Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso fourth and fifth in the FP2 order. Stroll twice ran deep at the slow, left-hand penultimate corner – once on his sequence of qualifying simulations and more severely towards the end of the session – while Alonso also had a wide moment out of Turn 6.

George Russell was sixth fastest for Mercedes, faring much better than team-mate Lewis Hamilton. He was a lowly 18th, 1.5s off the pace, and completed only one lap of his planned long run before heading to the pits in the final minutes of the session. Hamilton’s session also included a moment at Turn 10. Team boss Toto Wolff told Sky a set-up change on Hamilton’s car had “massively backfired”.

The McLarens of Oscar Piastri – who showed encouraging long-run pace in his MCL38 – and Lando Norris sandwiched the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez, who was only eighth fastest, with Yuki Tsunoda completing the top 10 for RB.

Only 19 cars ran as Williams worked to repair Alex Albon’s car following his heavy practice one crash. It does not have a spare chassis with it in Melbourne.

Practice 2 Results

Pos Name Car Best Time Gap Leader
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m17.277s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1m17.658s +0.381s
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1m17.707s +0.430s
4 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m17.822s +0.545s
5 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m17.912s +0.635s
6 George Russell Mercedes 1m17.951s +0.674s
7 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1m18.077s +0.800s
8 Sergio Pérez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1m18.090s +0.813s
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m18.155s +0.878s
10 Yuki Tsunoda RB-Honda RBPT 1m18.188s +0.911s
11 Guanyu Zhou Sauber-Ferrari 1m18.421s +1.144s
12 Daniel Ricciardo RB-Honda RBPT 1m18.534s +1.257s
13 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1m18.578s +1.301s
14 Valtteri Bottas Sauber-Ferrari 1m18.585s +1.308s
15 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1m18.691s +1.414s
16 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1m18.702s +1.425s
17 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1m18.705s +1.428s
18 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.834s +1.557s
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m19.275s +1.998s

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