Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc signalled his intent at the Australian Grand Prix after setting the pace in second practice at Albert Park.
The 24-year-old Monégasque’s time of 1:18:978 saw him beat early-season rival Max Verstappen by +0.245s, with the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, fastest in first practice, not far behind in third.
An impressive display from Alpine saw Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon finish fourth and sixth respectively, sandwiching the Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
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In a session devoid of real incident, Mercedes’ George Russell finished 11th, with team-mate Lewis Hamilton two places further adrift.
Hamilton, pole-sitter in Melbourne for each of the last six editions of the race, remains a long way off the pace as Mercedes’ difficult season seemingly looks set to continue.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas endured a brief run-off onto the grass during the 60-minute session; evidence of the drivers still acclimatising to the new dimensions of the Melbourne circuit.
Parts of the track have been modified to encourage quicker, more entertaining racing, with the Australian Grand Prix marking its return to the F1 calendar after a Covid-19-enforced two-year absence.
Meanwhile, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who suffered problems in first practice and caused the session to be red-flagged after losing drive, did not set a time as his team confirmed they would change the power unit on his car.
The 34-year-old German has also been summoned to the stewards for "unauthorised use of a scooter on the track” during first practice.
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