Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets for Ferrari in the second free practice at the Australian Grand Prix on Friday after Williams driver Alex Albon wrecked his car in the first session with a crash at a familiar turn at Albert Park.

Leclerc posted a flying lap of one minute, 17.277 seconds on soft tyres midway through the session, 0.381 seconds quicker than Red Bull’s reigning world champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman, bidding for back-to-back wins in Australia and a third victory in succession this season, made a late start in the second session after damaging the floor of his car in the first.

His team mate Sergio Perez was eighth fastest on a day when most cars struggled for grip on the street circuit.

Leclerc’s time was more than a second quicker than McLaren driver Lando Norris’s pace-setting lap (1:18.564) in the first practice (FP1), which was halted in the last 20 minutes after Albon’s crash triggered a red flag.

The England-born Thai locked up and took a heavy shunt into the barrier at turn six then careened into the opposite barrier to damage both sides of his car, leaving debris down a long section of the track.

It came a year after Albon crashed at the same turn on race-day, triggering one of three red flags.

Albon walked away from his car unharmed and apologised on the team radio. He missed FP2 as his team worked on his car, and Williams, who do not have a spare chassis in Melbourne, may be down a driver for the rest of the race weekend if unable to repair it.

Carlos Sainz made a successful return to his Ferrari race seat two weeks after surgery for appendicitis, posting the third fastest lap in FP2 after being eighth in FP1.

It was a sobering day for Mercedes, though, whose early season troubles appear to have followed them to Australia.

Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton reported something wrong with his Mercedes in FP2, posting only the 18th fastest lap after being ninth quickest earlier.

Russell was sixth in FP2 and third in FP1 but also struggled for control, joining Hamilton with a skid off track in the early session and complaining about vibration in his steering rack.

“It didn’t feel good out there today,” said Hamilton.

“We made some big changes into FP2 and unfortunately, that made the car worse.”

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll was fourth in FP2, ahead of team mate Fernando Alonso.

Following Albon’s crash Williams had another fright in FP2 when Logan Sargeant, who recorded the 13th quickest lap, slid off track at the exit of turn 11.