The Friday in F1 Australian GP saw the Top 2 teams maintain their position, with Mercedes a bit further down as McLaren rose up by bit.

It was quite the hectic day in F1 Australian GP with multiple red flag periods and impeding situation which left two drivers being reprimanded too. Fortunately, there were no big incidents to cause the red flag, but more for debris and stoppage.

At the front of the field, there were no surprises with Red Bull and Ferrari head-to-head again where the Italian manufacturer looked slightly better on pace. Even though Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz did have their moments, but still had pace.

Max Verstappen did drop himself in between the two in FP2, but didn’t seem fully comfortable, much like his teammate who also managed to set a quick time but wasn’t 100%. The fight for the win, though, is likely to be between the two F1 outfits.

Mercedes were far off the times with neither making it in the Top 10 in FP2 which left both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell a bit frustrated. They seem to be a bit further behind with no upgrades brought in for the Melbourne F1 weekend.

In fact, the likes of Alpine and McLaren pounced on the opportunity to be inside the Top 10 along with Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas, with Haas unable to show full pace. Both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo hailed the positive step forward.

Leclerc: “I think already today, Red Bull have more than what they’ve shown just because they did not put the lap together. Max had a bit of traffic in his fast lap. It is going to be very close, so we will have to maximise our car to be starting on pole on Sunday. It’s a very tricky track. I mean it’s quicker than before, quite slippery also but it’s always the case on Friday here, because obviously we have not been driving here for two days and there are no other races during the year, I think. So, it takes a bit of time before the track improves and gets the final grip for qualifying but overall, it was quite a positive day for us. A tricky one – FP1 especially was very tricky for me; FP2 we got a little bit better working on the car. Hopefully we will do another step forward for tomorrow in FP3.”

Verstappen: “I mean I also had a car in front of me in my final lap, so that didn’t help, but I think FP1 and the beginning of FP2, we were lacking a bit of balance – then I think for the final run, we changed the car around a bit and felt a lot happier. A tiny bit off Ferrari but I do think that we can maybe make it a little bit closer. Yes, they’re quick again, but in the long runs, everything looked quite stable and quite nice so I’m happy about that – and we definitely made some good improvements today. Of course, you never know tomorrow, but so far, they seem again very strong. Still a little bit of work to do but we are more or less there.”

Hamilton: “I feel OK, it was just a difficult session. It’s just nothing you change on the car makes a difference at the moment, so that’s the difficult thing. You get in very optimistic and then you make changes and then it doesn’t really seem to want to improve. We made some changes going into P2; P1 was better and then P2 ended up being a bit harder for me, so I don’t know. It’s a tricky car. There’s just not a lot we can do. It’s the way it is so we’ll just have to drive with it. That’s the frustrating thing because you’re trying to push and you’re trying to catch, and even when you do a decent lap, it’s 1.2s down. So it’s difficult.”

Russell: “There’s quite a few midfield cars ahead of us, and obviously we’re quite a long way off the pace at the front, so we need to work hard tonight, understand the limitations. The car felt alright, didn’t feel too bad, but it was a bit strange – on my soft tyre I just kept on improving and improving. I know a few drivers did that, but it seemed a little bit more extravagant from our side of things. We’re definitely porpoising pretty badly in Turn 9. It’s probably the most severe I’ve experienced. But I think it’s just something that we’ll have to deal with for the time being. We believe that’s the fastest way around the track, but maybe it’s not. We need to keep digging into the data and understand. We’ve sort of gone left, right and centre with the set-up, and all have resulted in a similar outcome, so we need to try and get on top of things and understand why.”

Norris: “Probably our best Friday so far. I’m hoping it can kind of continue into tomorrow because we have a good feeling. I think we made a few changes, so we’ve learnt a bit this weekend already, or from the previous few weekends, that we’ve implemented, and I think it’s working reasonably well. We’ve taken a small step forward so it’s a good start and hopefully over tonight we can continue that into tomorrow and make a couple of further improvements.”

Alonso: “Today, for sure, it was tight. We see the competition being there with Haas and Alfa Romeo as well – we see that they are quick in the long runs and they are going to be there in the mix with us, so small differences are going to make a big difference for Q3. The middle sector is one corner unfortunately – we would love to be a little bit stronger in the last sector. But yeah it was okay, a good Friday for us. We still need to understand the tyres a little bit better, and also the set-up, but let’s see tomorrow. The track changes felt good. Obviously a lot faster compared to the last layout, but still not totally sure about the overtaking possibilities. Even with four DRS [zones] that makes it easier, but I think it’s still a difficult track to overtake – it’s narrow and Melbourne historically has been a difficult one and I think it will still be difficult to overtake on Sunday.”

Bottas: “I am pretty happy about where we are and I think I have a realistic chance to keep my Q3 streak going – I don’t want to give up on that! That’s our goal, if we set the car up right tonight we should be fighting for a place in the top ten. We were able to run with different compounds today and the way they work reflect pretty much what we expected, so we are confident we can use them well, and I didn’t suffer from too much degradation, which is a positive. Overall, I am pleased – I also really like the new track layout. It’s fast, overtaking should be easier but not too easy: I think they did a good job.”

Haas found itself outside the Top 10 with neither drivers showing strong pace, even though Mick Schumacher missed out on a fast lap. It seemed that Kevin Magnussen’s ill health limited his running but both reckoned the low-fuel pace wasn’t there as much as high.

Another team in the zone was AlphaTauri, with Pierre Gasly just having a ninth place finish in FP2. The Frenchman said the improvements in the second session helped but they were still a bit off their direct F1 rivals. They are hoping to find a bit more on Saturday.

For Aston Martin, despite the engine issue with Sebastian Vettel, the German quickly got into the rhythm before that in FP1. He also explained what happened with the marshal for which he was fined by the FIA for returning into the pits using a scooter. And for Williams, the low-fuel run wasn’t optimised properly which left them at the fag end of the field with the hope of making it into Q2.

Vettel: “We had a problem and there was a bit of smoke and we lost power so we had to stop on the track and then I did my best effort to limit the damage and get it off the track as soon as possible. It stopped our running, which was painful and unfortunately it also cost us the whole session in the afternoon, which was not ideal – I haven’t been in the car for a while. Plus the track is different. It will be fine tomorrow but it would have been nice to get more laps.”

Magnussen: “I didn’t feel great when I woke up this morning but we still managed to get some laps in and get a feel for the car. Hopefully I’ll be a bit better tomorrow, build from there and have a good qualifying again. It looks like we have a bit of work to do on the low-fuel balance whereas high-fuel balance seems more in the window, so that’s the focus.”

Gasly: “I must say this new track layout is pretty cool, it’s definitely a lot faster which is always personally something I like, as you can definitely feel the potential of an F1 car when you’re going through a corner at 200-250 kph, that is a really unique experience. It’s obviously quite challenging getting to grips with a new layout and definitely bumpier than we expected, but it’s been a good day. There’s a couple of things to improve for tomorrow, to unlock some more potential, but generally speaking I’ve enjoyed today. I think we struggled a bit this morning and didn’t start the session off in the best way, but we made a lot of improvements for FP2 which was really positive. Alpine are looking strong this weekend, especially with Fernando, but we’ll focus on ourselves ahead of Qualifying and try to extract the most from the car. Personally, I don’t know if there will be more grip coming tomorrow but I hope so, from past experience that’s what we’ve seen on new tarmac, but let’s wait and see.”

Here’s how F1 Australian GP FP1 panned out

Here’s how F1 Australian GP FP2 panned out