the Ferrari The driver and pre-event championship leader returned to his FP1 form by also running uphill during the second of Friday’s hour-long practice sessions in Barcelona.
Leclerc ran flawlessly in his qualifying race on soft Pirelli C3 tires at 1m19.670s.
That found 0.16s above his FP1 benchmark effort, closer to 0.6s of Hamilton’s pre-season test time at the venue in late February on the fastest C5 compound rubber.
This took Leclerc 0.117 seconds away from Russell, the mercedes driver who set the tone during FP2 last time for the first Miami Grand Prix.
Hamilton was a late adopter of the soft tire and raced particularly well in the latter part of the second sector to clinch the third-fastest effort – albeit 0.09s behind his team-mate.
Sergio Perez and Albon also had their first race of the weekend after missing FP1 as Formula 2 race winner Juri Vips (Red Bull) and Formula E champion Nyck de Vries (williams) conducted their first GP practice sessions over the weekend.
Verstappen had been the first driver to achieve a fairly representative lap time on medium rubber as he and Sainz fell below the 1m21s threshold ahead of Leclerc and the Mercedes.
But after just 11 minutes, the session was interrupted by a virtual safety car.
This intervention was necessary when the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottassixth at the time, expired on the straight after the Finn completed just three laps.
A puff of smoke from the rear was accompanied by the engine appearing to die out quickly as Bottas came to a stop on the edge of the track on the exit of Turn 1.
After the three minutes of the VSC, the other notable incidents hit Albon and Lando Norris as the two pulled away from the right turn at high speed 9.
This allowed them to peek over the outside pavement, kick up some gravel, and send sparks flying.
Both pilots anticipated ground damage from their ground effect machines, but as Albon continued the session, Norris was forced to return to the McLaren garage for the rest of FP2 after completing just six laps.
Albon and Sainz also remain under investigation by stewards after a close call between the pair at Turn 2.
After 21 minutes the switch to soft tires and halo qualifying arrived with Vettel taking the lead in the heavily updated and controversial Aston Martin AMR22.
His 1m20.703s – then the fastest of 0.23s – was quickly dislodged by Perez, despite the Red Bull driver losing pace due to traffic in Turn 10.
Verstappen then buzzed the timing line with his 1m20.006s, finding a whopping 0.7s margin at the time.
He will remain the fastest driver in the first and the last sector but will fall in the middle of the lap.
Then Sainz, Mercedes and Leclerc set the ultimate times to lead FP2.
It was less rosy for Leclerc in his late run on medium tyres, however, as he lost several tenths per lap to Verstappen as he complained about tire behavior and degradation.
Norris completed the times behind the two Williams, Albon pipping Nicholas Latifi.
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