Mercedes dominated Friday’s Formula 1 practice running in Melbourne, leading Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Ferrari by more than 0.8 seconds. The results were suspicious, however — though Mercedes improved by around a second between the closely matched FP1 and the blowout in FP2, Ferrari and RBR improved by only two or three tenths, suggesting the latter two teams were hiding their pace.
Sebastian Vettel and new teammate Charles Leclerc were both within a tenth of Hamilton in FP1, but slumped to fifth and ninth respectively in the second session. Charles Leclerc admitted that the first free practice session had been “very positive” for the Maranello team, but added that he was struggling to get the tyres switched on and cope with the wind in the second practice session at the Albert Park circuit. He insisted there was “no panic” at Ferrari heading into qualifying day:
“I honestly think that FP2 was more difficult for everyone than FP1, because there was more wind. For our part we have carried out our planned program. We are happy about FP1, less happy with FP2 but we know what to change and we hope we make the right changes for tomorrow. We have found difficult conditions and certainly our rivals have not tried the fastest lap either, so we’ll see how things will be after qualifying. I’m still very happy with the work we’ve done today.” – Scuderia Ferrari Monegasque racing driver Charles Leclerc explained at the end of the second practice session ahead of the 2019 Australian Grand Prix.