In the rain in Melbourne, Max Verstappen refrained from risky experiments. After by far the fastest lap in the dry first Formula 1 practice session, the Red Bull star was content with third place in the second practice session on a wet track on Friday. Nevertheless, the 25-year-old Dutchman is in the hunt for his third world title in a row as the big favorite in the third round of the season on Sunday (7 a.m. / Sky) in Australia.

“We didn’t drive on lap times, but did coordination work after each lap,” said Red Bull’s motorsport consultant Helmut Marko on Sky, who also had to acknowledge: “Alonso is very fast, it can still be exciting.” Verstappen would probably have been even faster could ride, but didn’t do that on a day with difficult conditions, especially at the end.

Ex-world champion Fernando Alonso, who finished third in each of the first two races, drove the clear best time in the rainy second practice session. Before the rain got heavier in Melbourne, the 41-year-old Spaniard landed in his Aston Martin in 1:18.887 minutes, a good four-tenths of a second ahead of Vice World Champion Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari. Verstappen positioned himself behind last year’s winner from Melbourne.

The wet conditions made a normal practice session impossible. Before it got wet, the teams hastily tried to do fast laps. Then the rain slowly got heavier and the dry tires could no longer be used. As a result, the times on the course in Albert Park were not very meaningful overall. Nico H├╝lkenberg finished ninth in the Haas racing car.

Problems with the GPS system had previously meant that the first training session had to be interrupted for several minutes. The difficulties made it impossible for the teams to observe the vehicle’s position and the approach speeds on the track. Therefore, for safety reasons, the red flag was waved until the location was working again. In addition, the 60-minute unit had to be stopped prematurely because Williams newcomer Logan Sargeant had to park his car right next to the track after technical problems.

Ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix, when dry conditions and sunshine are expected again, Verstappen leads the overall standings by a point over Perez. So far, both have won one Grand Prix each. Third is Alonso, H├╝lkenberg is still waiting for his first World Cup point of the year.