Leclerc keeps Ferrari ahead in second Imola practice

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc topped second practice at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix on a difficult afternoon for Red Bull Racing.

Leclerc doubled down on his FP1-leading performance to lower the benchmark by more than a second with a best time of 1m15.906s. The Ferrari driver was the only man to nudge beneath 76s around the Imola track, beating McLaren’s Oscar Piastri by 0.192s.

McLaren, however, had cause to end the day happiest, with Lando Norris having been set for top spot on his sole flying lap before he made a mistake at the final turn and was forced to abort the time.

The Miami Grand Prix winner had set purple times in the first two sectors when he ran wide over the exit curb and bailed into pit lane. His combined first two sectors had him 0.083s ahead of Leclerc, and his final split had looked on track to seal the deal before the error.


Ferrari and McLaren’s strong performances contrasted starkly with more struggle for Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen, who ended up seventh in the order ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

Though Verstappen had sounded more optimistic about the balance of his RB20 on the medium tire in the opening laps, on softs he railed against its unpredictability, lamenting it as “so difficult … this time suddenly the front grips up a lot and I almost spin.”

The Dutchman was in deficit to Leclerc in all three sectors and lagged behind Piastri after the first split, leaving him 0.541s adrift. His single-lap frustration carried over to the long-run simulations, underscored by his running wide at the first Rivazza at the end of the lap.

Red Bull Racing’s sister team and local Italian squad RB had no such issues, with Yuki Tsunoda taking the third-quickest time at 0.38s off the pace, though the Japanese driver’s afternoon was dampened somewhat by an investigation into an improper practice start at the end of the pit exit.

Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were closely matched in fourth and fifth ahead of Carlos Sainz, who was more than half a second off the pace, and the underwhelming Red Bull Racing pair.

Nico Hulkenberg ended the session ninth ahead of Fernando Alonso, who completed the top 10.

Daniel Ricciardo led the out-of-position Norris, Lance Stroll and Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly down to 15th.

Valtteri Bottas was 16th ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who resumed control of his car from Ferrari reserve driver Oliver Bearman after FP1.

Alex Albon was 18th after completing just 23 laps following a lengthy 23-minute delay to him joining the sessions due to major work on his Williams.

Teammate Logan Sargeant, who ended with a similarly low 22 laps and was last in the order behind Zhou Guanyu, spent a similar 26 minutes in his garage before hitting the track, though Williams said both his and Albon’s long waits were part of the team’s planned program for the session.

Story originally appeared on Racer