Sensational Leclerc tops Australian GP FP2 as Albon faces race against time to continue weekend

Ferrari led the way in FP2 for the 2024 Australian GP with Max Verstappen also in the top three

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Charles Leclerc proved the class of the field in FP2 to complete the first day of running at the 2024 Australian Grand Prix, beating Max Verstappen by almost four-tenths while third-place Carlos Sainz was only five-hundredths behind the Dutchman.

However, the biggest story of the session was the one driver who didn’t set a time – Alex Albon. The Thai driver took a heavy shunt in FP1 to bring out the red flags and Williams don’t have a spare chassis in Melbourne, so Albon was forced to sit out the session as the team investigate whether his FW46 can be made safe to continue in the weekend.

Albon himself is fit and healthy after the crash but may not have a car to race in, and it’s unclear whether Williams would be willing or able to withdraw Logan Sargeant – who span early in this session – and have Albon compete in the American’s car instead.

Ferrari appear the strongest team at the front of the grid, with Sainz only getting stronger on his return from appendicitis surgery though Verstappen also surely has more to give.

Alexander Albon looks on at the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | Williams F1 Team
Alexander Albon looks on at the 2024 Saudi Arabian GP | Williams F1 Team

And Aston Martin stamped their application for the third-best team on the grid with both drivers finishing in the top five led by Lance Stroll – though neither could get within half a second of Leclerc.

Early evidence suggests drivers can get multiple flying laps out of one set of tyres, and George Russell was mere hundredths behind Alonso in sixth to give Mercedes a much-needed boost.

McLaren could only scrape into the top 10 with Oscar Piastri leading the way in seventh – but the Australian produced a very competitive race simulation as he bids for the first home podium ever in Melbourne.

Ninth-placed Sergio Perez was the meat in a McLaren sandwich in eighth and Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 10, the last driver within a second of Leclerc before 11th-placed Zhou Guanyu who was 1.144 seconds away.

Attritional Albert Park already taking toll

Albert Park Circuit 2023 Australian GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office
Albert Park Circuit 2023 Australian GP | Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Albon remains the biggest casualty of the weekend so far, but it wasn’t smooth sailing for the rest of the grid either. Verstappen missed time at the start of FP2 as Red Bull fitted a new floor to his RB20 and while they managed to hide it from the waiting TV cameras and the watching world, the Dutchman didn’t seem quite at one with his machine.

Tsunoda also required repairs to his car while Lewis Hamilton completed the end of the session with his brake covering held on by tape, and complained of ‘something wrong over the team radio’.

“It’s always a challenge on this city track, it’s a trade-off with how much you want to push on Fridays

Stroll made several trips into the grass and gravel too, with Albert Park punishing driver errors more harshly than most circuits given the lack of tarmac runoff.

Adam Dickinson
Adam Dickinson
An international multi-award-winning journalist, Adam Dickinson has written for Total-Motorsport.com since June 2022 and also contributes to TNT Sports, Eurosport and the Rugby Paper. He's also had articles published in the Daily Telegraph and several local newspapers, previously worked for Last-Lap.co.uk and FeederSeries.net in motorsport, and graduated with a First-Class Journalism Degree from the University of Sheffield having also studied in Oklahoma. Adam started watching F1 by accident in 2007, catching the last race in Indianapolis, and attended his first race as a journalist at the 2023 British Grand Prix.
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