Long runs | Leclerc clearly faster than Red Bull, Verstappen’s stint interrupted

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Long runs |  Leclerc clearly faster than Red Bull, Verstappen's stint interrupted

Ferrari got off to an excellent start in Melbourne. Now Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are often fast over one lap, but on the Albert Park Circuit the Italian team also managed to demonstrate an excellent race pace. How Ferrari’s pace compares to that of Red Bull Racing is difficult to assess, because Max Verstappen only did a four-lap race simulation due to time loss at the start of FP2, while many drivers, including Verstappen and Sergio Pérez, suffered from traffic.

Verstappen had anything but a flawless day in Melbourne. Due to floor damage sustained in FP1, Verstappen had to watch the first twenty minutes of the second free practice session from the sidelines. Because the Dutchman was able to start later than the other drivers, the 26-year-old completed a qualifying run on the medium tire, while the competition was already on the soft rubber. But even when Verstappen dropped a set of the softs in the last fifteen minutes, he could not keep up with Leclerc’s pace. The Monegasque’s pace over one lap was impressive. With a time of 1:17.211, he was 0.381 seconds faster than Verstappen, who finished in P2. The Ferrari man’s time is even more impressive when you consider that Verstappen set his fastest time later in the session.

Encouraging long runs Ferrari, Red Bull lags behind

For a change, Verstappen was not head and shoulders above the rest of the field in the long runs on the Albert Park Circuit. However, there was a reason for that. Due to valuable time loss at the start of the session, the reigning world champion only completed a four-lap race simulation. Nevertheless, Ferrari’s race pace was impressive, although Leclerc remains cautious. According to the Monegasque, many drivers were bothered by traffic during their simulation, while he himself admitted that he was not bothered much.

The overview of the lap times in the table below shows that Leclerc is on average the fastest driver. However, a few caveats must be noted. For example, a number of drivers were affected by traffic, but there is also a huge difference in the number of laps that everyone drove. What makes it easier is that all drivers completed their long run on the medium tire.

Driver Max Verstappen Sergio Perez Charles Leclerc Carlos Sainz George Russel Fernando Alonso Oscar Piastri Lance Stroll
Band Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium Medium
1 24,575 23,122 23,016 23,451 24,173 23,819 23,517 23,431
2 23,503 22,732 22,832 23,210 23,840 23,678 22,810 23,210
3 23,947 22,596 22,990 23,171 23,321 23,509 22,319 22,842
4 23,068 23,200 23,006 22,667 23,707 23,555 22,405 23,133
5 24,234 23,047 23,849 23,758 23,488 22,751 23,006
6 23,169 22,666 23,920 24,710 22,578 23,329
7 24,115 23,746 24,222 22,737 23,120
8 24,378 23,086 23,749
9 24,891 23,797 24,400
10 23,837
11 24,710
12 24,222
Average 1:23,773 1:23,604 1:22,913 1:23,431 1:23,760 1:23,854 1:23,231 1:23,358

Verstappen clearly could not make a fist this time, but the times of his teammate Pérez are also anything but constant. The overview above clearly shows that only Leclerc recorded particularly consistent lap times. But it is difficult to say to what extent Ferrari actually has a chance of beating Verstappen and Red Bull on Sunday. The Austrian team has already announced through both drivers and advisor Helmut Marko that there is still work to be done, something that is not often the case with the championship formation.

Remarkable times for McLaren, small differences between other top teams

By far the longest stint is in the name of Oscar Piastri. McLaren’s young talent completed no fewer than twelve laps on Pirelli’s medium rubber. It is striking that the Australian can stay under 1:23 for quite a long time, but towards the end of his stint, tire degradation seems to play an increasingly important role. In his final laps, the McLaren driver is no longer able to stay under 1:24.

Behind Ferrari, McLaren and Lance Stroll, who also performed well with an average of 1:23.358, the differences between the other top teams are small. Of course, Verstappen was not able to complete a representative long run, but Pérez’s times were not exactly impressive. The average race pace of the Mexican is only one tenth faster than that of Mercedes driver George Russell, while Aston Martin driver Fernando Alonso had to give up two tenths to the Red Bull driver.

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