Formula One: Leclerc on top with Vettel as Ferrari shine in the sun

Leclerc sits in his car during the second practice session. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

HOCKENHEIM, Germany (AFP) - Charles Leclerc topped the times ahead of Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in Friday afternoon's (July 26) sweltering and crash-hit second free practice for the German Grand Prix.

In a session that suggested the Italian team's determination to recover competitive form was paying off, Leclerc was quickest in one minute and 13.449 seconds, outpacing the four-time champion by 0.124 seconds.

Vettel enjoyed his return to home soil and topped the morning session to the delight of German fans and his father Norbert who was supporting from the Ferrari pits.

Series leader and defending five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton was third, 0.146 off the pace set by the Monegasque driver, but half a second ahead of Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas in fourth.

Max Verstappen was fifth for Red Bull ahead of Romain Grosjean of Haas, Lance Stroll of Force India and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo with Nico Hulkenberg ninth for Renault and Sergio Perez 10th in the second Force India.

Verstappen's Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly was unable to clock a soft-compound time at the end of the session after crashing.

On a very hot afternoon, with an air temperature of 37 deg C and a track temperature of 50, Ferrari found the conditions to their liking again. Vettel topped the times in the morning and Leclerc in the afternoon, while Mercedes appeared to be keeping some performance in reserve.

But it was a disappointing day for Frenchman Gasly who, after an encouraging run in opening practice, lost control of his Red Bull in the final minutes of the afternoon session at the final corner and hit the barriers on the outside. The impact damaged the left side of his car, but he was unhurt.

"I lost it," he told the team, a blow to his fragile confidence only two weeks after his best result, fourth, at the British Grand Prix. Replays showed that the rear of his vehicle lurched away from him as he accelerated on exit from the corner.

The session was red-flagged for seven minutes and resumed with nine remaining.

Hulkenberg, hoping to retain his seat at Renault in 2020, lost power and pitted immediately while Leclerc requested a check on his Ferrari's brakes as the action continued. The team confirmed all was well.

"It is difficult to judge anything," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. "It is so hot it affects everyone. As far as engine cooling goes, we are OK here - Ferrari have looked very strong going through the corners..."

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