Fernando Alonso was quickest in a rain-interrupted second practice session in Melbourne ahead of Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen.
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The Aston Martin driver set the fastest time early in the session before rain began to fall around the 15 minute mark, which put a stop to any further improvements on the timing screen. Alonso's 1'18.887 put him almost half a second quicker than Leclerc's Ferrari.
With clouds drifting over Albert Park threatening rain before the session began, the temperature had dropped significantly compared to the opening hour of practice as the second hour of running got underway. With a 40% risk of rain expected, there was a rush of cars onto the circuit as the green light appeared at the end of the pit lane, drivers dicing for track position over the first two sectors of the lap to secure a clear track to start their runs.
Carlos Sainz Jnr won the race to start the first flying lap and he duly set the initial benchmark with a 1'20.378, with Alonso going second, half a tenth behind. Sainz was displaced by Ferrari team mate Leclerc, before Max Verstappen broke into the 1'19s to go quickest of all.
Alonso improved by well over a second on his second flying lap on his medium tyres, going quickest of all by eight tenths of a second over Sainz who also improved on his second effort. Verstappen abandoned his next push lap after a mistake in the first corner which saw him run across the grass.
After traffic caused trouble in the earlier session, the radio waves were again filled with drivers complaining about their laps being spoiled by rivals getting in their way. Sainz arrived at turn 11 to find a gaggle of cars all struggling to clear a path, while Perez complained that two of his laps were ruined by Lance Stroll and Zhou Guanyu, respectively.
Within ten minutes of the session starting, drivers started to report light rain around the circuit. The field returned to the pits, with some teams opting to send out their cars on soft tyres in case track conditions would fail to improve for the rest of the hour. Alonso and Lando Norris both started flying laps, but quickly abandoned them after both ran wide at the first corner.
With grip levels clearly diminished due to the rain, the track fell silent as drivers returned to the safety of their garages. After a lull of nearly ten minutes, Ferrari sent both Sainz and Leclerc out onto the circuit on soft dry tyres while George Russell also took to the track on intermediate tyres. Russell soon abandoned his run, deeming it too dry for his tyres, before Ferrari also returned to the garage with their soft tyres faring little better.
Lewis Hamilton and the two Alpine drivers, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly, also chose to head out on intermediate tyres, but returned to the pits at the end of a single exploratory lap. Verstappen was next to brave the conditions on his own, confirming over radio that the track was indeed wet and returning to the pits with his curiosity satisfied.
The rain intensity increased with visible water now building up on the track. That prompted a group of teams to send their drivers out on intermediate tyres to gather data on how their cars run in wet weather conditions. The trickiness of the conditions was demonstrated when Stroll ran off the circuit at turn three, with Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg both reporting that the white road markings around the street circuit were proving very slippery.
The rain eased and the track gradually began to dry, but the circuit remained far too wet in some areas to consider a move to slick tyres. The final minutes ticked by until the chequered flag, with the majority of the field taking to the circuit to take advantage of the opportunity to perform a practice start on the newly modified grid markings for this weekend.
With the session over, Alonso sat as the fastest driver with his 1'18.887 – but slightly slower than Verstappen's best time from the earlier session on softs. Leclerc was second fastest, four tenths behind the Aston Martin driver, with Verstappen third and Russell fourth for Mercedes. Sainz was fifth in the second Ferrari, with Ocon and Perez sixth and seventh. Norris, Hulkenberg and Gasly completed the top ten.
After stopping on track at the end of the first practice session, Williams driver Logan Sargeant did not participate in second practice as his team continued working on his car.
Report to follow
2023 Australian Grand Prix second practice result
|1||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1'18.887||13|
|3||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||RB19||1'19.502||0.615||12|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||SF-23||1'19.695||0.808||12|
|7||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||RB19||1'20.083||1.196||15|
|11||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||AT04||1'20.220||1.333||18|
|12||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||1'20.312||1.425||22|
|15||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||C43||1'20.470||1.583||22|
|16||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||AMR23||1'20.579||1.692||15|
|17||21||Nyck de Vries||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||AT04||1'20.600||1.713||8|
|20||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams-Mercedes||FW45||No time|
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