Lewis Hamilton continued to set the pace in the second practice session ahead of this weekends season-opening Australian Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver edged out his teammate Valtteri Bottas by four hundredths of a second.
Mercedes has shown pace in both sessions, but Hamilton managed to increase his lead over his main rival Sebastian Vettel. The Englishman set his fastest time half way through the session using the medium tyres which secured him the top spot.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third fastest for Red Bull-Honda, eight tenths slower than Hamilton, after opting to delay his performance run to the closing stages of the session. But that put him four hundredths faster than his teammate Pierre Gasly.
The Dutchman spent most of the session on the medium tyres before a late run to jump ahead of his new teammate switching to the soft tyres for mediums to jump Gasly taking third.
It was another low key session for Ferrari, the favourites for this weekend going sixth with Charles Leclerc ninth, over a second slower than Hamilton. If this is the true performance of the Italian team it would be a surprise, it is widely expected that Ferrari are the early leaders.
Leclerc also had a spin late in the session after losing it on the exit kerb coming out of the Turn 4 left-hander. He was able to continue.
Throughout Friday, Mercedes found a second’s worth of pace for the second session, Vettel improved by just a tenth and a half and Verstappen by only three tenths.
On race pace there are no clear answers either, there appears to be marginal gaps between the soft and hard tyre. But Ferrari is not showing everything because the margin between Vettel and Raikkonen was smaller than it was on average between them when they were team-mates.
That left the Finn a tenth off Vettel and just ahead of the Renault’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo. A much better afternoon for the French manufacturer after a number of reliability issues on Friday.
The rest of the midfield were tightly packed, Haas, Toro Rosso, Racing Point and McLaren all covered by two-tenths of a second between tenth and fourteenth. Carlos Sainz put in a late lap going fourteenth ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi after he spun early on.
The two ‘British’ rookies Alex Albon and Lando Norris were seventeenth and eighteenth with Norris a second and a half faster than the Williams duo. Despite a trip through the gravel at Turn Three, which followed his FP1 crash with a run through the gravel mid-season a similar spin to Giovinazzi’s late on.
Again, Williams propped up the grid with George Russell ahead of Robert Kubica, both four seconds off the outright pace and two seconds off their nearest rivals.