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Leclerc outpaces Verstappen in Australian Grand Prix practice

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc led the pack in the Australian Grand Prix Friday practice sessions at Albert Park in Melbourne, outperforming Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 0.381 seconds, marking a challenging day for Red Bull.

Verstappen encountered an early setback, missing the initial 20 minutes due to a floor damage from an off-track incident, complicating his team’s dominance in the season’s early races.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz secured the third-fastest time showing a potential shift in the competitive dynamics, with Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso, and Mercedes’ George Russell following in the time sheets.

Leclerc’s performance boosted optimism within the Ferrari camp, with hopes they could pose a serious challenge to Red Bull’s recent supremacy.

On the other side of the coin Lewis Hamilton had a disappointing session, placing 18th and reporting significant issues with his Mercedes, marking one of his worst outings in recent memory.

Verstappen remained hopeful blaming the difficulties on his early incident and was confident car adjustments would address the issue.

Several drivers experienced off-track incident, particularly at the high-speed chicane, though without significant incidents following Williams driver Alex Albon’s crash in the first session. Albon’s mishap led to the decision for him to use teammate Logan Sargeant’s car for the remainder of the weekend.

Mercedes showed signs of struggle throughout the day, with both Hamilton and Russell facing difficulties. Despite this, Russell believed he could have secured the third-fastest time if not for a late error.

Pirelli’s choice of bringing its three softest tyre compounds to the event has set the stage for a race that could heavily tax tyre management, adding an additional layer of strategy to the weekend’s competition.

Leclerc remains cautiously optimistic about Ferrari’s prospects, acknowledging the team’s strong performance but aware of the potential for Red Bull to reveal their true pace. Sainz, returning from an appendectomy also showed promising speed despite lagging slightly behind his teammate.

The practice sessions have set a compelling narrative for the weekend, with Ferrari displaying potential to disrupt Red Bull’s early-season dominance and Mercedes facing unexpected challenges.

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