Leclerc fastest in 2nd practice for Australian F1 race
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc led Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, with defending series champion and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in second.
Leclerc clocked 1 minute, 18.978 seconds at the revamped Albert Park layout, with Verstappen 0.245 seconds behind. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who led after the first practice session, was third fastest.
Local hopeful Daniel Ricciardo in a McLaren was 10th fastest and Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes 13th.
There will be another practice session on Saturday before qualifying later in the afternoon for Sunday’s race.
Leclerc won the season-opening race in Bahrain and Verstappen won the second in Saudi Arabia, both in March.
During a major refurbishment of the Melbourne track, five corners were reprofiled at Albert Park and two were removed altogether, meaning practice times were typically five seconds faster than at previous races, making meaningless previous track records.
Friday’s practice sessions have been held 756 days since the 2020 race was canceled at the last minute due to the COVID-19 pandemic with spectators lining up at the gates for the first practice session on Friday March 13 of this year.
Sainz and Leclerc scored twice in the first practice, but veteran Spanish Sainz warned against expecting too much from his Ferrari team. This is despite Leclerc winning and a second place and Sainz a third and a second in the first two races.
“We keep saying that Red Bull and Mercedes are the favorites because we haven’t fought for the title in recent years,” Sainz said. “We are always very careful. We know we have put together a great car on track, but these two teams have been fighting for the title for two or three years.
“They know how much they need to improve, they know exactly what they need to do. And maybe we lack that bit of experience.”
Leclerc said the same.
“Even though we are leading. . . we’ve only done two races, so it’s still too early to think about the championship,” said Leclerc.
Leclerc said before the first practice session that he thought the track renovations could give Red Bull an advantage.
“For our car, I would prefer to stay with the old layout, but that’s just from a performance point of view,” said Leclerc. “The only reason I say that is because Red Bull seem to be very strong on the straights… and there are a lot of straights in general now, so we might struggle a bit more.
After two races, Leclerc leads the drivers’ championship with 45 points, followed by Sainz (33) and Verstappen (25).
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