Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheet ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas, while 2019 pre-season favourites Ferrari ended fifth and ninth in second practice ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Mercedes hit the front early in the session, with Hamilton and Bottas rising to the top of the times on the medium compound tyres.
Suspicions of Ferrari sandbagging were raised when Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc failed to beat Mercedes’ medium tyre times, despite running the soft rubber for a qualifying simulation run.
When Mercedes switched to the red striped compound, Bottas improved by 0.8 seconds to briefly rise above Hamilton, before the reigning champion reclaimed top spot with a 1m22.600s – 0.048s clear of Bottas.
Ferrari’s Vettel ended the session in fifth place, while Leclerc – who spun after climbing the exit kerb at Turn 4 in the closing moments of the session – was down in ninth, 1.154s adrift of the pace.
The Red Bull duo ended up third and fourth. Max Verstappen posted his qualifying simulation run late in the session and was blocked on his first effort by Antonio Giovinazzi while the Alfa Romeo rookie was in the middle of a high-fuel run.
Verstappen’s next lap was 0.8s down on Hamilton’s benchmark but was still good enough to topple Pierre Gasly’s best time in the sister Red Bull.
Gasly’s session ended in concerning fashion when he reported a loss of power. He was able to recover his Honda-powered Red Bull to the garage, curtailing his running two minutes early.
Kimi Raikkonen pedalled his Alfa Romeo into fifth place, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo also split the Ferraris, providing further credence to the sandbagging theory.
While Hulkenberg’s FP1 electrical gremlins were resolved for the second session of the day, Ricciardo’s running was hampered by a seat issue which cost the home favourite 20 minutes of track time at the start of the session.
Haas’ Romain Grosjean rounded out the top 10, with team-mate Kevin Magnussen in 12th. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat split the Haas pair.
Kvyat’s team-mate Alexander Albon suffered a spin at Turn 15 during the session. Unlike in FP1, the rookie was able to avoid the barriers. Giovinazzi also looped his Alfa at the same corner in the closing stages of the 90-minute session.
Giovinazzi finished 15th, while Albon was 17th. Fellow rookies Lando Norris and Williams’ George Russell were 18th and 19th respectively.
Russell and team-mate Robert Kubica were once again cut adrift at the back of the pack, 3.8s and 4.0s adrift respectively. They did, however, finish within 107 percent of the fastest lap time.