Lewis Hamilton headed a Mercedes one-two in second practice at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton beat Valtteri Bottas by 0.048 seconds but the two were 0.8secs clear of the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly.
Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel was 0.8secs slower than the Mercedes on both short, qualifying-style runs and longer race-style runs, which is completely contradictory to their form in testing, when all their rivals felt the Maranello team were ahead. The session left plenty of intrigue ahead of qualifying on Saturday, when the cars’ true pace will be shown for the first time. Sebastian ended the day 0.873secs slower than Hamilton, a result that, if it were repeated on Saturday afternoon would surprise the whole paddock. The German driver was just 0.03secs slower than Hamilton in the first session of the day, as 0.084secs covered them and Verstappen.
Adding to the confusion, on the race-distance runs late in second practice, Vettel on the fastest ‘soft’ tyre was only very slightly faster than team-mate Charles Leclerc on the slowest ‘hard’.
At the end of the second practice session in Melbourne, Scuderia Ferrari revealed that the balance during practice wasn’t right today, as Sebastian Vettel hopes to be a bit faster tomorrow: “Our car didn’t turn out to be the same like in Barcelona, but it’s going strong. I am sure that our great and smart engineers will find out the reasons, why we struggled today and we will see tomorrow.”
Charles Leclerc explained that the conditions in FP2 were more difficult due to the wind. He said that Ferrari were satisfied with FP1, not so much with FP2, but they know what to change for tomorrow.