F1 Australian GP FP2 | Leclerc comfortably ahead of Verstappen and Sainz; Albon doesn’t take part after earlier shunt

Photo Credits: Scuderia Ferrari
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Charles Leclerc went fastest overall in the second practice session for the 2024 Australian GP, as the Monegasque looked to be very comfortable in his Ferrari in every tyre compound. Max Verstappen finished in second, nearly four tenths back, after missing out on nearly half of the session due to damage repairs in his RB20. Alex Albon didn’t take part in the session at all after his FP1 shunt, amid Williams’ worrying admission it does not have a spare chassis ready in Melbourne.

Second practice for the 2024 Australian GP got underway in glorious sunshine conditions around the Albert Park circuit.

Alex Albon was ruled out of the session before the session it even started, as Williams announced it would assess the damage and the repairs necessary after the Thai driver had a very sizeable shunt with the wall in the opening session, meaning he wouldn’t take part in the second practice session of the weekend.

10 minutes into the session, it came to light that Williams does not have a spare chassis stored in Melbourne, meaning that if can’t repair the damaged chassis from FP1, it will only have one car available to race during the rest of the weekend.

Max Verstappen also didn’t feature on track for the first few minutes of the session at least, after Red Bull continued to repair his RB20 after his off-track excursions in FP1 caused some damage to the underfloor.

Early on, Sergio Perez requested a darker visor over the radio due to “poor visibility” as the sun got down low in Melbourne. He went fastest of all shortly after, with a time of a 1:18.695 on the medium tyres as the session reached a quarter of its duration.

But the Mexican was soon beaten by a very quick Charles Leclerc, with a 1:18.265 also on mediums putting the Monegasque nearly four-and-a-half tenths clear of the Red Bull. The Monegasque would improve again just minutes later, breaking the 1:18 barrier to set a 1:17.936, putting him over a quarter of a second clear of Lando Norris, who jumped to P2 in his McLaren, also on the medium tyres.

Williams continued to have a difficult day, as Logan Sargeant spectacularly spun off in turn 11 and hit some gravel, but fortunately for him and for the team that’s already struggling for spare parts, no damage was done to his FW44.

Fernando Alonso was the first driver to set a qualifying simulation run on the soft tyres, and the Spaniard put the red-marked rubber to good use, with a time of a 1:18.127 putting him up to second place, just under two tenths behind Leclerc’s medium tyre benchmark.

After 20 minutes of running, the classified order of the top 10 was: Leclerc, Alonso, Norris, Sainz, Perez, Russell, Alonso, Hamilton, Gasly, Stroll and Piastri.

Lance Stroll would soon follow his team-mate in trying the soft tyres, but the Canadian had a lock-up in the penultimate corner and completely missed the apex, but didn’t have any massive implications aside from a very slow last sector.

Alonso went again and managed to improve his time to a 1:17.912, putting him at the top of the times, and he was soon followed by Stroll, who went even quicker on a 1:17.822 to go top of the times.

Sergio Perez’s initial effort on the soft tyres didn’t really make any headlines, as he could only manage fourth-fastest, nearly three tenths back from Leclerc’s lap on mediums.

His team-mate Max Verstappen finally got out on track after 25 minutes in the garage, and the reigning world champion went out of sync with the rest of the field, setting his first lap on the medium tyres, and went over 2 seconds slower than Stroll after a huge lock-up in the penultimate turn, an uncharacteristic mistake from the Dutchman.

Kevin Magnussen had a brief excursion over the gravel on the exit of turn 10, but managed to keep his Haas out of the wall and any further damage.

The tyres proved to be holding on around Albert Park, with drivers continuously able to improve their times on tyres used for as much as six laps in the case of Fernando Alonso.

George Russell had an off in the first turn on his first flying lap on softs, much like he and team-mate Hamilton did in FP1, as Mercedes’ high-speed cornering struggles very present in Jeddah seem to continue into this weekend.

Leclerc’s first effort on the soft tyres put him in an ominous lead, four tenths ahead of Stroll in P2.

Verstappen managed to improve his time on mediums to got 9th fastest as the session passed its halfway point, just under nine tenths back from Leclerc’s time on softs. He would soon improve by a further three tenths, leaving him just 0.56s off the Monegasque.

Mercedes’ struggles continued to hamper its drivers, as Lewis Hamilton found himself careering over the gravel at the exit of turn 10, but managed to regain control and rejoin the circuit without major damage.

The two McLarens had a somewhat disappointing initial run on the soft tyres, considering the strong result from Lando Norris in FP1, as Piastri could only manage 7th place and over six-and-a-half tenths back from the pace-setting Ferrari, with Norris two places further back.

After returning from appendicitis, Carlos Sainz made it a Ferrari 1-2 with just 22 minutes of the session remaining, setting a time just over 0.4s slower than Leclerc.

With two thirds of the session gone, the order of the top 10 was: Leclerc, Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Russell, Verstappen, Piastri, Perez, Norris and Tsunoda.

Verstappen’s first run on the soft tyres finally came with just under 19 minutes of the session remaining, and the Dutchman unusually didn’t look too happy with the balance in his RB20, as he missed a few apexes and ended up setting a time only good enough for third fastest, with a time exactly the same as Carlos Sainz’s earlier effort, but leaving the Dutchman behind as he set his later on. He would go again a few minutes later, and improve to second place, just 0.381s off Leclerc’s time of a 1:17.277.

Logan Sargeant had an off in turn one after trying to go around the outside of a Sauber but running out of grip in the process, but no damage done.

The only major absence from the top five teams in the top 10 was Lewis Hamilton, as the Briton didn’t get a clear run in on the soft tyres due to his excursions on the gravel trap as he struggled with the W15, and finished over one-and-a-half seconds off the ultimate pace.

As the session approached its final minutes, drivers and teams switched focus to medium tyres long-runs. Pace-setter Leclerc had a scare as his SF-24 snapped with oversteer out of turn 1, sending him careering over the grass and gravel, but he rejoined without any further issues.

Lewis Hamilton reported “something wrong” in his Mercedes, after being told Leclerc was lapping in the 1:22.8’s in his Ferrari – indicating the Mercedes was slower than expected in race runs.

Lance Stroll was another to have an off during his race run, locking up badly into the penultimate corner, and taking a trip across the grass, now already marked by tyres after so many drivers went out there during the two sessions.

The final classified order of the top 10 was: Leclerc, Verstappen, Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Russell, Piastri, Perez, Norris and Tsunoda.

Outside the top 10, the order was as follows: Zhou, Ricciardo, Sargent, Bottas, Gasly, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Hamilton, Magnussen and Albon – the latter didn’t take part in the session at all.