Leclerc tops Verstappen as Merc woes persist in Australia
Ferrari the team to beat at Australian GP as Charles Leclerc makes it a Friday practice double in red as he outpaces Max Verstappen in P2; Alpine impress, both Mercedes cars outside the top-10 in painful start to weekend; Watch Saturday qualifying live on Sky Sports F1 at 7am
By Matt Morlidge
Last Updated: 08/04/22 8:16am
Charles Leclerc capped off another encouraging day for Ferrari by setting the pace ahead of Max Verstappen in Australian GP second practice, with Mercedes further down the field in a miserable start to their weekend.
Leclerc, the championship leader, and Verstappen, the world champion, have gone head-to-head in two gripping races to start the season and they continued their battle on the opening day of practice in Melbourne – although Ferrari do appear a step faster than closest rivals Red Bull.
After Carlos Sainz topped the first session, Leclerc doubled up by speeding away in second practice with a 1:18.978, two-tenths quicker than Verstappen, who cut a frustrated figure and could not hook up a complete lap.
“Ferrari look a bit untouchable,” said Sky Sports F1’s Paul Di Resta.
Sainz was third for 2022’s early leaders, ahead of surprise package Fernando Alonso in the Alpine and the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez.
Alpine, mixing it at the front, also had Esteban Ocon in sixth.
Those are the positions you would normally expect Mercedes, but the world champions are still floundering, and well off the pace.
George Russell and Lewis Hamilton finished way down in 11th and 13th respectively in P2, well over a second adrift of Leclerc’s benchmark.
Sebastian Vettel also endured a frustrating day on his F1 return after a Covid enforced absence. After grinding to a halt in first practice, the four-time world champion didn’t get out on track at all in his Aston Martin in the second session.
There was, however, a more encouraging day for the Mercedes-powered McLaren.
The Woking team showed flashes of pace throughout both Friday practices, and they finished the day in eighth and 10th through Lando Norris and home hero Daniel Ricciardo.
More to follow.