Fernando Alonso leads the way as rain soaks second practice in Australia

Fernando Alonso leads the way as rain soaks second practice in Australia

Fernando Alonso clocked the fastest time in Friday’s rain-hit second practice session for the Australian Grand Prix.

Championship leader Max Verstappen set the pace from Lewis Hamilton in the earlier dry running at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

But it was Alonso who ended the day on top after he went fastest in his Aston Martin before heavy rain arrived 10 minutes into the one-hour session.

The double world champion, 41, who completed only 13 laps, finished four tenths clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen was third, six tenths back, with George Russell fourth for Mercedes. Hamilton finished 13th, 1.4sec adrift, after he failed to post a clean lap with the slick rubber.

Earlier, the opening running of the weekend was red-flagged on two occasions, firstly when the GPS systems went down at the temporary track and then in the closing minutes as Logan Sargeant broke down in his Williams.

Sargeant’s mechanical failure arrived just minutes after Verstappen survived a spin at Turn 4.

The championship leader, who earlier took an unscheduled trip across the gravel, rode the kerb on the exit of the left-hander before pirouetting in his Red Bull in a plume of tyre smoke.

“These tyres are complete f***** now,” said the Dutchman.

Verstappen was also fined for speeding in the pit lane. The double world champion will have to pay £615 for going 4mph over the 50mph speed limit.

Verstappen was among a plethora of drivers to run off the road in the first session, with Yuki Tsunoda surviving a hairy moment when he was temporarily launched airborne as he skidded across the sand trap in his AlphaTauri. The Japanese driver avoided damage and limped back to the pits.

For Hamilton, the seven-time world champion also momentarily lost control of his Mercedes at the 11th corner before returning to the track to clock the second-quickest time, providing both him and his Mercedes team with some encouragement heading into the remainder of the weekend.

Lando Norris also had reason to be cheerful after finishing seventh and then eighth in Friday’s two sessions.

Norris has failed to score a single point in the opening two rounds of the season, with his McLaren team rooted to the foot of the constructors’ championship.

Norris’ rookie team-mate, Oscar Piastri – the first man from Melbourne to race at Albert Park – was 12th in the dry, less than a second off the pace.

Although rain affected Friday’s running, it is expected to be dry for qualifying on Saturday as well as Sunday’s race.