until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

All you need to know about final pre-season F1 test day

by Jack Cozens
4 min read

Ferrari ended 2024 Formula 1 pre-season testing on top as Charles Leclerc pipped Mercedes' George Russell to the fastest time on day three.

Key moments

  • Leclerc's long-standing benchmark fastest by 0.046s
  • Verstappen four tenths back but on harder tyre
  • Day three sessions merged after red flag in morning

Leclerc's best lap of 1m30.322s was not the fastest of testing - that belonged to his team-mate Carlos Sainz, who set a 1m29.921s a day earlier - but it was still fastest on day three despite multiple drivers attempting runs on softs in the closing stages.

Russell had a handful of qualifying simulations on C3 tyres but then ran the same softer C4 compound Leclerc used in the final five minutes of conventional running before on-track procedural checks.

His late flying lap was Mercedes' best of the test, with a 1m30.368s leaving him a mere 0.046 seconds shy of Leclerc's time.

Zhou Guanyu was another late soft-tyre runner and hauled the Stake-liveried Sauber up to third with the final flying lap of the session, which was 0.325s off the benchmark.

Prior to those improvements, Max Verstappen had been Leclerc's closest challenger, four tenths back from the Ferrari.

However, like Sainz's table-topping time from Thursday, that gap from Ferrari to Red Bull was not quite comparable, as Verstappen used a harder C3 - the mid-range compound in testing, but the softest on offer at next weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix season opener - to set his best time.

But the Ferrari did look competitive - from trackside as well as in single-lap trim and on long-run simulations.

Verstappen vs Leclerc long run

C1 tyre (first 10 laps)

Verstappen: 1m37.559s; 1m37.446s; 1m37.430s; 1m37.207s; 1m37.284s; 1m37.176s; 1m37.178s; 1m37.049s; 1m36.934s; 1m36.822s

Leclerc: 1m36.393s; 1m36.404s; 1m35.880s; 1m36.015s; 1m36.261s; 1m36.016s; 1m36.257s; 1m36.167s; 1m36.282s; 1m36.062s

With the majority of the final two hours dedicated to long runs, that allowed for comparisons between the Ferrari and the Red Bull. Leclerc's 10-lap stint on the hardest C1 tyre was quicker, with the caveat that he had completed a stint before that (and was therefore lighter on fuel) while Verstappen pitted for an extended time after his stint, making his fuel level hard to gauge.

Yuki Tsunoda and Alex Albon also completed flying laps on C4 tyres in the closing stages. Tsunoda was within half a second of pacesetter Leclerc for RB, with Albon - the only driver in for the full day as he racked up 121 laps - two tenths further back for Williams.

Oscar Piastri (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) were two more drivers to complete significant long-run mileage in the final two hours of the day. Their earlier single-lap efforts on the C3 tyres left them seventh and eighth in the order.

After a slow start to the day for McLaren, which experienced a reported clutch issue that limited Lando Norris to just 20 laps, Piastri logged 91 in the afternoon.

Sainz and Perez ran longer than the other 'morning only' drivers - a second red flag in two days for a loose drain cover meant the decision was taken to merge the two sessions into one extended one without an official lunchbreak - and completed 71 and 53 laps respectively as they rounded out the end-of-day top 10.

Nico Hulkenberg set Haas's fastest time of the test, a 1m31.686s, in the afternoon session and was 11th fastest, 1.3s off the pace.

Day three times

1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 1m30.322s, C4, 74 laps
2 George Russell (Mercedes) +0.046s, C4, 67 laps
3 Zhou Guanyu (Sauber) +0.325s, C4, 85 laps
4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0.433s, C3, 66 laps
5 Yuki Tsunoda (RB) +0.453s, C4, 53 laps
6 Alex Albon (Williams) +0.662s, C4, 121 laps
7 Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +0.708s, C3, 91 laps
8 Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +0.837s, C3, 75 laps
9 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.925s, C3, 71 laps
10 Sergio Perez (Red Bull) +1.161s, C3, 53 laps
11 Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) +1.364, C3, 89 laps
12 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1.677s, C5, 49 laps
13 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1.716s, C3, 46 laps
14 Lando Norris (McLaren) +1.786s, C3, 20 laps
15 Pierre Gasly (Alpine) +1.827s, C3, 47 laps
16 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +2.731s, C3, 80 laps
17 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +2.757s, C3, 55 laps
18 Valtteri Bottas (Sauber) +3.206s, C3, 28 laps
19 Daniel Ricciardo (RB) +6.693s, C1, 70 laps

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