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Hamilton continues to set Melbourne pace

NEWS STORY
15/03/2019

Ahead of today's second session, the air temperature is 22 degrees C, while the track temperature is 45.4 degrees. It remains bright and sunny.

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets earlier, but as in Barcelona a couple of weeks back, it was close, with the Briton, Vettel, Leclerc and Max Verstappen covered by just 0.193s.

Hulkenberg missed much of the session due to an electrics issue, while a disagreement with the barriers for Albon briefly brought out the red flag, and Valtteri Bottas did well to avoid the same fate after getting two wheels on the grass.

As expected it was a tough session for Williams, with both cars over 4.3s off the pace.

The lights go green and Grosjean is first out, the Frenchman on the medium rubber.

With nobody seemingly very eager to join him, the Haas driver, with a clear track, posts a 1:25.634.

Next out is Leclerc and then Sainz, with Raikkonen and Russell not far behind. A mixture of mediums and hards being the order of the day.

Leclerc goes second, but is subsequently demoted by Stroll and then Gasly, the Frenchman going quickest with a 25.401.

A wobble for Raikkonen who runs a little wide, the Alfa thought to have been affected by the blustery winds.

A 25.629 sees Perez go second, as Stroll has a real tank slapper at T2.

Vettel goes fourth with a 25.904, ahead of Stroll, Norris and Giovinazzi.

A 24.409 sees Magnussen go top, the action fast and furious almost from the outset in this session. Just 13 minutes in and 14 drivers have posted times.

Following Hulkenberg's issues in FP1, this time around it is Ricciardo who appears to have a problem. The Australian gets out of his Renault which is subsequently engulfed by mechanics.

The tailwind at T1/2 now catches out Vettel, who takes a long trip across the grass.

Kvyat goes second with a 24.709, the five quickest cars all on the medium rubber, while sixth-placed Perez is on hards.

Verstappen finally heads out, leaving Ricciardo as the only no show, the Red Bull driver immediately going quickest in S1. Maintaining a strong pace in S2, Verstappen ultimately crosses the line at 24.324 to go quickest, ahead of Magnussen and Kvyat.

Hamilton, currently 18th, 14.2s off the pace, now goes quickest in the first two sectors, finally crossing the line at 23.582, like Verstappen he is on the medium rubber. Moments later Bottas, also on mediums, posts 23.879 to go second.

While the Renault crew continue to work on Ricciardo's car, Hulkenberg goes 8th with a 25.071.

Verstappen improves with a 23.851, thereby splitting the Silver Arrows. Meanwhile, the Ferraris are 13th (Leclerc) and 16th.

25 minutes into the session, Ricciardo is finally on track, and the Australian wastes no time in getting on the timesheets, crossing the line at 25.220 to go 11th.

Elsewhere, Hamilton consolidates hit top spot with a 23.148, the Briton quickest in the first two sectors.

Vettel unhappy with the handling of his car in Turns 1 and 4, the German claiming that something is wrong. He subsequently pits.

Though he fails to improve next time around, Ricciardo gets plenty of warm applause from the grandstands.

PBs in all three sectors see Grosjean go fourth (23.814) just ahead of teammate Magnussen. However, moments later the Haas pair are split by Giovinazzi who crosses the line at 24.293. However, both Grosjean and Giovinazzi are on the soft rubber.

Indeed, soft now appears to be the order of the day, as Gasly - on the red-banded rubber - posts 23.442 to go third.

Also on the softs is Vettel, who stops the clock at 23.473 to take fourth. Moments later, his former teammate, Raikkonen goes fifth on the softs.

Bottas heads out on the softs, leaving teammate Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo and the McLaren pair as the only drivers yet to try them.

Unsurprisingly, Bottas goes quickest in S1, as Hamilton heads out on the softs. Bottas maintains the pace in S2, finally crossing the line at 22.648.

Vettel reports that his SF90 is "still a bit wobbly".

Indeed, it appears Hamilton has backed-off on his first flier after losing time behind the wobbly Ferrari.

Ricciardo, on the softs, improves to seventh with a 23.644, while Hamilton re-takes the top spot with a 22.600, though he was only quickest in S1.

We never saw Verstappen stretch the legs of the Red Bull in Barcelona, and today we have yet to see him try the softest rubber for a qualifying sim. Indeed, the youngster is on track but still sporting the yellow-banded mediums he was clearly so fond of in Spain.

That said, he is aware that teammate Gasly managed a 23.442 on the softs.

Hulkenberg improves with a 23.574 to make it a Renault 6-7.

"I can't get the rears under control," urges Hamilton, though with an 0.8s lead over Vettel we dread to think what might happen if he does get them sorted.

As the drivers begin the switch to longer runs, it appears Albon, who crashed in FP1, has had another lucky escape. "Oh my god," he declares, "I got my finger stuck in the headrest and nearly hit the wall!" Which prompts the question, why was his finger in the headrest.

A spin for Albon at T14 after he dips a wheel on the grass briefly brings out the yellow flags.

With twenty minutes remaining, Verstappen heads out on a new sets of softs. A long run or a qualifying sim?

Unfortunately, the Red Bull driver loses time behind Giovinazzi who doesn't appear to notice Verstappen as he leaves the pits. The Italian, like Leclerc and Stroll, is on hards.

Verstappen now posts a PB in S1, however losing time in S2 he eases off. Or at least he appears to ease off, in fact, another PB in S3 sees him improve to third with a 23.400, 0.800s off Hamilton's best.

There's another quick glimpse of the yellows when Giovinazzi spins at T15.

With ten minutes remaining, all bar Magnussen are on track. A mixture of all three compounds in use.

A late excursion for Russell sees the yellows waved again.

Following Vettel's claim that something is wrong with the SF90, now Leclerc makes similar noises.

The camera pick up on Leclerc who is stopped by the side of the track facing the wrong way after applying the power just a little too hard in T4 and running over the kerb.

The session ends and as in FP1, Hamilton is quickest, ahead of Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Vettel, Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Grosjean.

Kvyat is eleventh, ahead of Magnussen, Stroll, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Perez, Albon, Norris, Russell and Kubica.

Despite all Hamilton's talk of BS, it would appear, on the evidence thus far, that if Ferrari does have the edge, Mercedes is right up there with it. Though we didn't see the best of Verstappen, it's clear that Red Bull is in the mix.

As for the midfield, clearly, as we suspected Alfa Romeo has taken a step forward, while poor old Williams, dare we say it, has actually taken a step back.

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1. Posted by Jigsaw, 16/03/2019 14:54

"Might as well give them both trophies of the year, (driver and manufacturer), before the race because it's going to be another snooze fest. Too bad. I hate parades!!"

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