WITH REUTERS: Charles Leclerc may not have won the Australian Grand Prix, but there’s no doubt he laid great groundwork for the Monaco Grand Prix in two months’ time.

The Ferrari driver had topped the timesheets in the final free practice at the Formula One Australian Grand Prix on Saturday in a minor boost before going on to take second place in the race itself.

Leclerc, who was also quickest in the second practice session on Friday, clocked one minute 16:714 seconds with his final flying lap around the street circuit, 0.02 seconds better than Red Bull’s world champion, Max Verstappen, who was looking for his tenth consecutive win.

Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz held the top spot in practice with a fast, early time on medium tyres but ended up third-quickest ahead of Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who posted his best on soft tyres after initially struggling on the compound.

However, Max Verstappen’s early retirement put the Spaniard in a position to make good use of the clean air after Max Verstappen left the race on only the third lap.

Leclerc’s good form in practice translated into a second place on the podium behind Carlos Sainz, making it one-two for Ferrari.

For Sainz, the win at Melbourne will surely help him win a place next season. Red Bull’s Christian Horner made some seriously interested noises after the race, saying: “Based on a performance like that, you couldn’t rule any possibility out.”

Formula One F1 – Australian Grand Prix – Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Melbourne, Australia – March 23, 2024 Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc during practice REUTERS/Mark Peterson