It has been a hectic morning in Australia as drivers encountered a dry FP1 only to have to endure wet conditions just hours later during FP2.
Many Irish viewers will have missed the action on track with the first session taking place at 2:30 am this morning, followed by the second and last of the day at 6:00 am.
Max Verstappen set the pace for Red Bull in first practice, even after a number of incidents on track, before Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso topped the timesheets during a rain-soaked second session in Melbourne on Friday.
READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Drivers arrive in Australia for Round Three of the 2023 season at Albert Park
Verstappen, the reigning World champion and leader of the 2023 season so far was fastest in a rather hectic session to kick off the weekend at the Albert Park Circuit, with the Dutchman suffering a spin in the challenging conditions.
Lewis Hamilton was just behind the Red Bull in second when time ran out, but the Mercedes driver’s higher position was thanks to two red flags in the session, which brought a premature end to proceedings – so we can’t read too much into that.
Verstappen’s main competition earlier today was his teammate Sergio Perez. The pair have so far won one race each thanks to a truly dominant Red Bull – and each race has finished with a one-two for the Milton Keynes-based team.
They are separated by just one point in the drivers’ standings after the Saudi Arabia Grand Prix and appeared to be operating two very closely matched vehicles in Melbourne.
They were consistently exchanging lap times mid-way through the session before Verstappen managed to pish his RB19 almost half a second clear of his Mexican teammate.
However, spectators are pointing to the fact that Perez’s best time came was complete on the medium tyre, while Verstappen’s was on the faster soft tyre, suggesting they are closely matched.
Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso set the fastest time in FP2 before the rain came pouring down with Charles Leclerc in second for Ferrari and Max Verstappen third for Red Bull.
Alonso has been the one to talk about this season so far. He has been blessed with a much-improved AMR23 for the season ahead and that, coupled with his extensive skill could prove dangerous for the Red Bull men currently leading the championship.
Just 20 minutes into the session, Alonso was at the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1m 18.887s. Meanwhile, Leclerc was 0.445s back in P2 and Verstappen was 0.615s off the Spanish driver’s pace in P3.
A short time later, every driver headed into the pits as the rain began to pour, with soft runs taking a backseat as the track was now too wet for slicks.
Despite this, the Ferraris emerged from the pits on soft tyres in the rain while Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Mercedes’ Hamilton emerged on intermediate tyres – before the rest of the field followed suit.
This marked the first time drivers got a real sense of how they could perform in wet conditions this year and most took full advantage of it.
While there were no representative qualifying simulation runs in FP2, Mercedes’ George Russell managed to secure P4, 0.785s off the pace, while Sainz was in P5, 0.808s away from first.
Esteban Ocon was just 0.030s off the Ferrari in sixth, while Perez took P7 in the other Red Bull. Lando Norris finished in P8 ahead of Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg, while Pierre Gasly rounded out the top 10 for Alpine.