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F1 – Alonso tops FP2 in Melbourne as rain arrives at Albert Park 

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Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso topped the second practice session for this weekend’s 2023 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, beating Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and championship leader Max Verstappen as rain hit Melbourne’s Albert Park circuit. 

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took an early P1 with a lap of 1:20.378 set on the medium tyres, though a couple of minutes later Verstappen appeared, also on mediums, to set a new benchmark of 1:19.759 ahead of Leclerc who had also joined the action. Sainz was settling into his run, however, and he moved back to the top of the order with a second lap of 1:19.695.

Two-time 2023 podium finisher Alonso then took to the track and the Spaniard claimed P1 with his first flying lap on medium tyres. Alonso moved to the top with a lap of 1:18.887 ahead of Sainz who improved again.

Alonso’s benchmark time stood for the rest of the session, as with a quarter of an hour gone, rain began to fall across Albert Park. However, just before the conditions worsened noticeably Leclerc slotted in a time just over four tenths off Alonso to steal second ahead of Verstappen who took third with a lap of 1:19.502, some six tenths of a second behind the leading Aston Martin driver. 

With the rain intensifying, drivers began to struggle for grip and Alonso and McLaren’s Lando Norris slid off track at Turn 1 and Lance Stroll, in the second Aston Martin, scraped the wall as he went through Turn 9.

The difficulties forced drivers back to the pits and there followed a lengthy lull as teams waited for conditions to improve.

At the halfway point, with the conditions appearing to improve, both Ferrari drivers took to the track on soft tyres, though Mercedes' George Russell, who ended the session in fourth place, opted for green-banded intermediate tyres. He was matched by Alpine’s Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, though all three would return to the pits after exploratory laps. 

Ferrari and McLaren then sent its cars out on inters and running continued, with Alonso and Verstappen also rejoining the action. However, the conditions meant that there were no improvements in times and drivers restricted their running to data gathering on the green Pirelli tyres should the conditions be repeated later in the weekend. 

With Russell fourth, Sainz was left with fifth place on the timesheet, followed by Ocon., while Sergio Pérez took seventh in the second Red Bull. Norris, Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg and Gasly rounded out the top 10.

Elsewhere, Williams’ Logan Sargeant failed to take to the circuit in FP2 as his team investigated the electrical issue that forced him to stop at the side of the track late in FP1.

2023 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 
1 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 13 1:18.887 
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 10 1:19.332 0.445
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull 12 1:19.502 0.615
4 George Russell Mercedes 20 1:19.672 0.785
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 12 1:19.695 0.808
6 Esteban Ocon Alpine 12 1:19.725 0.838
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull 15 1:20.083 1.196
8 Lando Norris McLaren 20 1:20.176 1.289
9 Nico Hulkenberg Haas 19 1:20.194 1.307
10 Pierre Gasly Alpine 12 1:20.206 1.319
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 18 1:20.220 1.333
12 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 22 1:20.312 1.425
13 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 17 1:20.323 1.436
14 Oscar Piastri McLaren 24 1:20.380 1.493
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 22 1:20.470 1.583
16 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 15 1:20.579 1.692
17 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri 8 1:20.600 1.713
18 Alex Albon Williams 18 1:21.182 2.295
19 Kevin Magnussen Haas 18 1:21.266 2.379
20 Logan Sargeant Williams 0