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Ferrari quickest in practice on home soil as Lewis Hamilton struggles again
The seven-time world champion was only 18th at a rain-hit Imola.
Lewis Hamilton finished only 18th as Charles Leclerc set the pace in opening practice for Sunday’s Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
A fortnight on from a sun-drenched Melbourne, Formula One reconvened at a rain-hit Imola for the fourth round of the new season.
Leclerc, who has won two of the opening three races, holds a commanding 34-point lead at the top of the championship.
And despite a number of off-track excursions, he led the way here in the sole running before qualifying later on Friday.
But Mercedes’ early-season woes showed few signs of changing with George Russell only 10th, and team-mate Hamilton even further back, seven seconds off Leclerc’s pace.
The battle for pole position has been brought forward to Friday to accommodate the first of three sprint rounds this season.
Qualifying will determine the grid for Saturday’s 21-lap dash, with the order of the Sprint setting the grid for Sunday’s main event.
But this evening’s action looks set to take place in challenging conditions with the poor weather expected to continue throughout the day.
The early signs suggest Ferrari will remain the team to beat.
The Scuderia boast the speediest machine of the sport’s new era and they led the way again in practice with Leclerc finishing ahead of team-mate Carlos Sainz – the Spaniard whose two-year contract extension with the Italian team was announced before their home race.
World champion Max Verstappen finished third, 1.465 seconds down, with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher fourth and fifth respectively for Haas.
A red flag was deployed in the closing moments of the one-hour running after Lando Norris temporarily beached his McLaren in the gravel at Acque Minerali.
Norris was able to return to the pits without major damage, with the action resuming for the final three minutes. Qualifying takes place at 5pm local time (4pm UK).