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Practice report
Formula 1 Australian GP

Australian GP: Leclerc leads Verstappen in second F1 practice

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc beat Max Verstappen to the top spot for Formula 1’s 2022 Australian Grand Prix, with the latter opting to complete extra qualifying simulations compared to his rival. 

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75

FP1 pace-setter Carlos Sainz finished third ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, while George Russell was the top Mercedes driver in 11th as Lewis Hamilton finished 13th. 

In nearly 10°C cooler conditions compared to the first practice session at Albert Park on Friday – thanks to dark rain clouds building over Melbourne ahead of the one-hour afternoon running – Sainz led the way during the early running on the harder tyre compounds before his teammate and then Verstappen edged ahead during their later fliers on the softs. 

Valtteri Bottas established the first-place benchmark at 1m21.852s with an early run on the medium tyres, before he was deposed in quick succession by McLaren pair Lando Norris and then Daniel Ricciardo. 

As the opening five minutes drew to a close, Leclerc shot ahead on a 1m20.898s on the mediums, which he beat a few minutes later with a 1m20.523s. 

Valtteri Bottas then slotted into first with a 1m20.432s before Leclerc, his long early run on the yellow-walled rubber continuing, forged ahead again with a 1m20.175s. 

But just past the 10-minute mark, Sainz’s 1m19.979s put him at the top for the first time, with that lap on the mediums remaining as the best until 10 minutes later – when the Ferrari drivers led the switch to the softs. 

Leclerc got back ahead on his first run on the red-walled rubber – a 1m19.771s – albeit with no purple sectors and losing a chunk of time with a slide at the penultimate corner. 

Sainz, who had to back out of his first flier on the softs after encountering Yuki Tsunoda going slowly on the racing line through the second corner, then nipped back in front with a 1m19.568s. 

Alonso broke the Ferrari dominance at the front with a 1m19.537s just before the halfway point, but just a few moments later Leclerc – who had been through the pits before continuing on the softs – demoted him with a new best of 1m19.487s. 

Sainz continued the exchange of best times with Leclerc as he then posted a 1m19.376s, but the championship leader then surged ahead definitively with a third flying lap on another set of softs with 25 minutes to go. 

After posting what would stand as the quickest time in the first sector, Leclerc roared to a 1m18.978s to gain the upper hand on Sainz for the first time so far in practice for this event. 

All through the Ferrari drivers exchanging best times on the softs – particularly during their later runs – Verstappen was doing his own work to build up to a best time on that compound. 

Having been well down the order during the early running on the mediums, the world champion climbed into the battle for the top with his first softs flier, which was compromised by encountering Esteban Ocon and Hamilton through the super-fast left/right section of Turns 9/10 at the start of the final sector. 

Verstappen’s second go on the softs, where he had more traffic trouble at Turns 9/10, left him 0.408s down on Leclerc’s best time overall, but he made steady progress with two more efforts. 

On his third softs flier, Verstappen posted a purple sector in the middle third of the lap, but had to back off late on after sliding off the exit kerbs for the Turn 12 right and then having bounced back onto the track locking up and sliding deep at the final corner. 

A few minutes later Verstappen went even quicker in the middle sector and was able to complete the lap this time, finishing 0.245s to Leclerc and stealing ahead of Sainz, with the Red Bull appearing to lose time understeering through the final two turns. 

The attention then switched to the typical late-FP2 race run data gathering, which was interrupted by a red flag with 10 minutes to go by the front part of the top wheel cover fairing on Lance Stroll’s car blowing off and landing on the exit kerbs at Turn 12. 

When the session resumed, the Ferrari drivers were spotted – and heard – porpoising considerably all the way through the swooping new run of shallow corners heading into the Turns 9/10 complex. 

Sergio Perez’s final run on the softs popped him in between Alonso and Ocon, with Bottas ending up seventh – his running on the softs featuring a big Turn 1 lock up and trip through the gravel behind Turn 2. 

Norris took eighth ahead of Pierre Gasly and Ricciardo, with Russell 11th for Mercedes – 1.234s slower than Leclerc’s best time. 

Hamilton was a further 0.3s back, with the seven-time world champion having a major off-track moment during the early running. 

As he shot through Turn 12 during a lap on the mediums, Hamilton had to catch two oversteer snaps – the second of which sent him skating across the gravel trap at the corner’s exit. 

Stroll came in just behind Hamilton and faces two post-session investigations for apparently impeding the Briton and Sainz in separate incidents during the initial laps. 

The other Aston Martin – back in Sebastian Vettel’s hands this weekend after his COVID-19 enforced absences in Bahrain and Jeddah – took no part in FP2 following its smoky engine problem late in FP1. 

The team had been swapping in a fresh engine, but ran out of time to get the four-time world champion out for the second session. 

Vettel will also see the stewards now FP2 has concluded regarding his on-track scooter drive back to the pits following FP1’s conclusion and his car being stranded.

Australian GP - FP2 results:

Cla # Driver Chassis Engine Time Gap
1 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 1'18.978  
2 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull Red Bull 1'19.223 0.245
3 55 Carlos Sainz Ferrari Ferrari 1'19.376 0.398
4 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine Renault 1'19.537 0.559
5 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Red Bull 1'19.658 0.680
6 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1'19.842 0.864
7 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'20.055 1.077
8 4 Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1'20.100 1.122
9 10 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'20.142 1.164
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes 1'20.203 1.225
11 63 George Russell Mercedes Mercedes 1'20.212 1.234
12 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Red Bull 1'20.424 1.446
13 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 1'20.521 1.543
14 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes 1'20.611 1.633
15 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1'21.063 2.085
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1'21.191 2.213
17 23 Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 1'21.912 2.934
18 47 Mick Schumacher Haas Ferrari 1'21.974 2.996
19 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Mercedes 1'22.307 3.329
20 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes    

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