Australian GP FP2: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen chases

Australian GP FP2: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen chases

Australian GP FP2: Leclerc fastest, Verstappen chases

Charles Leclerc topped the second free practice session for the 2024 Australian GP, as Ferrari showed some ominous one lap pace.

The reigning Formula 1 Champion Max Verstappen, was only good for second fastest, quite a bit off the pace of Leclerc, with Carlis Sainz third fastest.

Verstappen had to miss 20 minutes of running in FP2, as the floor was still being replaced on his RB20 after he damaged it driving over a kerb in the first practice session.

While it is still early to judge, but Ferrari actually seem to have the upper hand in qualifying at least, and while Verstappen will surely be the driver to beat with Sunday’s race pace, this should set the scene for an interesting race down under.

Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso completed the top five as the Green cars also seemed to be handy around the Albert Park circuit.

Mercedes on the other hand looked out of shape, especially with Lewis Hamilton, while George Russell was sixth fastest, again better that his teammate who was down in 18th.

The McLarens seem to be lagging behind the Mercedes, of Russell that is, while the Yuki Tsunoda had a strong showing in the RB again faster than his teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Buildup towards FP2

FP1 was a messy affair, with drivers losing control of their cars all over the track, many damaging their floors, but Alex Albon ending up in the wall and having to miss out on FP2. Not a good start for the Thai’s race weekend down under.

The worrying news for Williams is that they do not have a spare chassis with them in Melbourne, which might be bad news should Albon’s chassis turn out to be damaged.

The top seven were separated by a tenth in the first practice, so one can only hope this closeness carries on for the remainder of the weekend, but the logic says that Verstappen and Red Bull haven’t turned on the wick just yet, so expect them to be on top.

Ferrari also seemed decent with Leclerc, while Sainz was getting used to driving his car with some modifications to his seat and seat belts done to make him more comfortable as he is not yet 100% recovered.

With Lando Norris going fastest, it seems McLaren have the upper hand on Mercedes this weekend for now, as Hamilton didn’t seem in sync with his W15, unlike Russell who was better once again. That however changed by the end of FP2.

Australian GP FP2 Session highlights

The clear conditions continued into FP2 albeit in slightly warmer conditions, as the second practice session started with ambient temperatures of 20 degrees Celsius as track temperatures rose to 37 degrees.

While drivers head out fairly quickly on track, Verstappen remained in the garage, his RB20 raised on stands as the mechanics went on putting it back together after changing the floor he damaged in FP1.

Hamilton soon had a slight oversteer exiting from Turn 1, the same place he had a wobble in FP1, as the seven-time F1 champ still worked to get comfortable in his W15.

In case you missed it, check out Hamilton’s off-track moment in FP1 below.

All the drivers started the session with runs on Medium tyres as Alonso was the fastest early only, from Norris and Stroll in second and third – that was ten minutes into the session.

Leclerc also joined the group of drivers having off track moment, going off at Turn 10, his SF-24 bouncing off the kerbs quite hard.

The order was soon reshuffled, as Leclerc took the top sport, over four tenths faster than Sergio Perez in second, while Alonso dropped to third – 15 minutes into the session.

And just to give Williams another scare, Logan Sargeant did a 360 spin getting out of Turn 11, and was lucky not to hit the wall or a car that was next to him.

As the session was getting closer to its 20 minute mark, Verstappen put his helmet on and was getting ready to get into his car as the mechanics were performing the finishing touches.

Qualifying runs soon started and Alonso was the first to bolt on the Soft tyres and went out for a qualifying run, but goes only second fastest, not beating Leclerc’s time that was previously set on Mediums. It was a scruffy lap from the Spaniard who hit the kerbs hard at Turn 8, but manages to keep going unlike Albon earlier.

Stroll also on a qualifying run on the Softs and going faster than his teammate, messes up the penultimate corner and ends up ninth.

With 37 minutes remaining, Verstappen soon made his way out on track on Medium tyres, his first timed lap only good for 19th.

Russell, halfway through the session had a moment at Turn 1, similar to what Hamilton had earlier in the session. Now there has been some tail winds reported over there, but Mercedes seem to be struggling with the rear of their cars being unsettled.

The qualifying simulations went on, with more drivers starting to use the Soft tyres, and several drivers taking turns in occupying the top spot.

Verstappen had a moment with Zhou Guanyu, which he was not happy about. A replay of the team radio showed that the Chinese driver’s engineer warned him about the Red Bull coming, but it was a late one. “Too late bro,” Zhou said.

Hamilton’s struggle with his W15 continued, as he had another off track moment with 25 minutes remaining, and bailed off his first qualifying run.

With 20 minutes remaining, Verstappen finally started his qualifying run with the Soft tyres, but his first time was only good for third fastest with Leclerc in first and Sainz in second at that point.

After a short visit to the pits, and a second run, the triple F1 Champion improved to go second fastest still unable to match Leclerc’s time.

With qualifying runs out of the way, the teams then set out to do some race simulations in the final ten minutes of the session.

Leclerc had an off moment at Turn 1, losing the rear of his SF-24 due to some tail win and went straight into the run-off area.

Hamilton soon asked his team about the times other drivers when doing, the feedback from the engineer wasn’t encouraging only for the Briton to respond: “Something is wrong.”

Stroll soon after had another moment, going through the run-off area on the penultimate lap after locking up heavily.

How they finished

Leclerc posted a lap time of 1:17.277 to go fastest and was 0.381s faster than Verstappen, the second fastest driver in the Red Bull.

However, Leclerc’s time remains over half a second shy of the pole time Verstappen set at the same venue back in 2023.

Sainz was half a tenth slower than Verstappen in third and 0.115s faster than Stroll, the Canadian fourth fastest in the Aston Martin.

Alonso was almost one tenth down on his teammate in fifth and only 0.039s faster than Russell, sixth in the Mercedes.

Oscar Piastri was the faster of the McLaren drivers, seventh fastest, 0.800s off the pace and only 0.013s ahead of Perez, eighth fastest in the second Red Bull.

Lando Norris was ninth fastest, 0.078s slower than his teammate and 0.033s faster than Tsunoda in tenth.

Ricciardo was 12th fastest, behind an impressive Zhou in 11th, while Hamilton was 1.557s off the pace in 18th having failed to put a decent qualifying simulation together.

FP2 Classification