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Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc completed a fine Friday’s running by topping the second Formula 1 practice session for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

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Leclerc backed up his FP1 performance to top his second successive session at Imola, posting a benchmark of 1:15.906s around the iconic circuit, seemingly confirming the Scuderia’s upgrades have the desired effect. The promise of a sustained challenge against Red Bull from Ferrari and McLaren was backed up by Oscar Piastri posting the second quickest time of the session with a 1:16.098s effort.

A surprise candidate slotted into third position in the form of RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, just under four-tenths shy of the fastest time of the afternoon at the Faenza-based squad’s home circuit.

Mercedes, bedding in some floor alterations had a positive session compared to the recent struggles endured by the Brackley-based squad. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth fastest with a 1:16.297s lap-time with George Russell fifth with a 1:16.311s effort.

With Leclerc leading the way out front, Carlos Sainz was a step behind his Ferrari team-mate to the tune of 0.517s en route to a sixth-placed finish in the session.

Red Bull, who struggled to get to grips with the picturesque Imola circuit in FP1, continued to have troubles in the afternoon session. Max Verstappen, fifth in opening practice was resigned to seventh in the afternoon session and more than five tenths off of the pace. “I don’t know, this time the front grips up a lot and I nearly spin…” was one of the Dutchman’s complaints over team radio and he would’ve been even more dismayed after running wide into the gravel in the final moments of the session on the approach to Turn 17. Sergio Perez winding up eighth confirmed Red Bull is missing a step and will need to investigate how best to reclaim its grip at the top of the F1 pecking order ahead of qualifying.

Nico Hulkenberg put on a fine display for Haas, slipping into the top-10 with the ninth-fastest time, 0.920s adrift of Leclerc’s benchmark. Aston Martin’s designation as the fifth fastest team in F1 looks set in stone with Fernando Alonso completing the top-10 and team-mate Lance Stroll finishing 13th.

Lando Norris, winner last time out in Miami would’ve hoped to feature further up the pecking order were it not for an unfortunate qualifying sim earlier on in the session. The McLaren ace was odds on to top the timesheets, going purple in Sectors 1 and 2 of the Imola circuit before running wide at Rivazza and aborting the lap. As a result, the Brit wound up 12th in the order, but Piastri slotting in at P2 at the end of afternoon practice shows McLaren, like Ferrari, has the pace to challenge for top honours at Imola this weekend.

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix continues on Saturday with FP3 at 12:30 local time (GMT+2).