Leclerc’s Ferrari leads wet Imola practice

Formula One world championship leader Charles Leclerc has led a Ferrari one-two in a wet first practice for his team’s home Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Monegasque, fresh from his Australian Grand Prix triumph last time out, lapped Imola’s Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit in a fastest time of one minute and 29.402 seconds on intermediate tyres in Friday’s opening session.

Spanish teammate Carlos Sainz was second quickest, 0.877 seconds slower.

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Red Bull’s reigning world champion Max Verstappen was third fastest with a time of 1:30.867, followed by the two Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, one of several spinners.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez was sixth fastest, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo was 15th in his McLaren.

Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton was only 18th, seven seconds adrift of Leclerc, in a session that started with full wet tyres before conditions improved enough for some to venture out on intermediates.

Teammate George Russell, second in the championship but 34 points adrift of Leclerc, was in 10th place.

“This is all about getting grip into the tyre and the temperature,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.

“The Ferraris appear to have unlocked this thing and everybody else is pretty much all over the place.

“Certainly when you see your car pounding around five seconds off the pace, you want to strangle yourself. But I enjoy the challenge and I enjoy it being bad – because in the long run we’re going to be good.”

Ricciardo’s teammate Lando Norris brought out red flags five minutes from the end when he went into the gravel but was able to return to the track.

Imola is the first European race of the season and also the first of three in the sprint format, with qualifying later on Friday to decide the starting grid for a 100km race on Saturday that establishes the order for Sunday’s main event.

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