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Formula 1

What happened in final F1 practice at the Australian GP

by Jack Cozens
4 min read

Formula 1 championship leader Max Verstappen led Fernando Alonso’s Aston Martin in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix, as the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez struggled to string together a lap in his RB19.

Key moments:

> Verstappen 0.162s clear on late performance runs

> Perez misses first 20 minutes, later struggles for laptime

> Red flag for debris in “very dangerous” place before Turn 9

> McLaren inspects clutch issue on Norris’s car

Verstappen was fourth early on and later bumped down onto the fringes of the top 10 having set his best initial time on medium compound tyres – which he also used for his long-run simulation midway through the session.

But once equipped with softs he hit the front in the final quarter of an hour of the 60-minute session, setting a 1m17.565s that stands as the best time of the weekend so far.

Alonso proved to be his nearest challenger, 0.162 seconds back but did set the fastest first sector of all on a subsequent attempt only for that lap to trail away.

But the Aston Martin again looked strong – most notably on the change of direction between the Turn 9/10 Esses – and that visual impression carried over on both single-lap pace and the long runs.

Alonso and team-mate Lance Stroll – ninth in the FP3 classification – were able to work down to low-1m22s laptimes on their race simulations in the brief window afforded to them before a mid-session red flag; this compared favourably to the Ferraris that led the session at that point, with Charles Leclerc’s best in this spell a 1m22.538s.

Alpine had a productive session with Esteban Ocon setting the third-fastest time, 0.373s off Verstappen’s best, and Pierre Gasly fifth. They were split by the lead Mercedes of George Russell.

Perez was sixth but his session was a scruffy one.

Having spent the first 20 minutes of the session in the garage, Perez had his first timed attempt on softs wrecked when he came across Nico Hulkenberg on the racing line, before being squeezed towards the wall innocuously by the Haas towards the Turn 11 right-hander.

But Perez struggled under braking for much of the remainder of the session – complaining of a “very loose rear” – and when he finally conquered Turn 3, the corner he’d found most difficult, he then went off at the penultimate corner late on.

He eventually hauled the car into the top 10 but ended the session 0.558s off his pacesetting team-mate Verstappen.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Melbourne, Australia

Carlos Sainz spent a good chunk of the session at the top of the times but was shuffled back to seventh once drivers attempted qualifying simulation runs following the mid-session red flag – shown after debris flew off the AlphaTauri of Nyck de Vries and landed in what Sainz’s team-mate Leclerc (who was 13th in FP3) described as a “very dangerous” place on the approach to the fast Turn 9/10 Esses.

Sainz also had a trip into the gravel five minutes after the session ended as he went into the gravel at Turn 11, shortly after his practice start.

Lewis Hamilton was eighth in the second Mercedes, with Stroll’s ninth-placed Aston followed by Zhou Guanyu – who a lap after elevating himself into the top 10 had a spin at Turn 2 as he tried to rejoin, having missed the apex at the first corner by some margin.

Rookie Oscar Piastri was 14th in his McLaren ahead of his first qualifying session in front of his home crowd, but team-mate Lando Norris propped up the times – Norris sitting out the final 20 minutes of the session as McLaren took “precautionary measures” in inspecting a potential clutch issue on his car.

Practice 3 Results

Pos Name Car Best Time Gap Leader
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1m17.565s
2 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m17.727s +0.162s
3 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1m17.938s +0.373s
4 George Russell Mercedes 1m17.955s +0.39s
5 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1m18.094s +0.529s
6 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1m18.123s +0.558s
7 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1m18.127s +0.562s
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.138s +0.573s
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1m18.198s +0.633s
10 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m18.33s +0.765s
11 Nico Hülkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1m18.41s +0.845s
12 Alex Albon Williams-Mercedes 1m18.553s +0.988s
13 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1m18.691s +1.126s
14 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1m18.713s +1.148s
15 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1m18.809s +1.244s
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1m18.901s +1.336s
17 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1m18.947s +1.382s
18 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1m19.056s +1.491s
19 Nyck de Vries AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1m19.092s +1.527s
20 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1m19.146s +1.581s
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