F1: Verstappen tops final practice for Australian GP

–by Mark Cipolloni–

Defending World Driving Champion Max Verstappen ran most of the final practice session for the Australian GP on medium tires and heavy fuel load to simulate race conditions at the 5.278-kilometer Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit.

Verstappen then strapped on a set of Soft Red Pirelli tires late in the session and on his first qualifying sim lap went fastest with a time of 1m17.565s before a light drizzle hit the track.

For reference, Charles Leclerc was on pole last year for Ferrari with a time of 1m17.868s

Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing greets fans on the Melbourne Walk during previews ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Australia at Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit  in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Fernando Alonso was 2nd quick for Aston Martin, just 0.162s behind the Dutchman’s Red Bull Honda.

Esteban Ocon was third for Alpine 0.373s behind and ahead of the Mercedes of George Russell.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, leads Alex Albon, Williams FW45 during the Australian GP at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Lionel Ng / LAT Images)

Pierre Gasly in the 2nd Alpine rounded out the top-5 ahead of the 2nd Red Bull of Sergio Perez who had a horrible session. Perez was late getting out because of left rear suspension issues and then had several offs before finally getting in a decent lap, good for 6th.

Piastri could be in a spot of bother here, the stewards are going to have a look at one of his practice starts. The drivers are meant to pull into the first available grid slot when doing their allotted start, and it seems he pulled into the P3 grid box rather than pole, which was available.

So all in all not a good day for McLaren, with Norris sitting out the end of the session with a clutch issue and unable to bolt on a set of softs at all before qualifying. That being said, if the rain hangs around, maybe his time on the inters yesterday will stand him in good stead.

Next up is qualifying at 1:00am ET.

Practice 3 Results

1 1 NED Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 1:17.565  +0.000 24
2 14 ESP Fernando Alonso Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 1:17.727 +0.162s 26
3 31 FRA Esteban Ocon Alpine Renault 1:17.938 +0.373s 23
4 63 GBR George Russell Mercedes 1:17.955 +0.390s 23
5 10 FRA Pierre Gasly Alpine Renault 1:18.094 +0.529s 23
6 11 MEX Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda 1:18.123 +0.558s 18
7 55 ESP Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:18.127 +0.562s 29
8 44 GBR Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:18.138 +0.573s 25
9 18 CAN Lance Stroll Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes 1:18.198 +0.633s 22
10 24 CHN Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1:18.330 +0.765s 20
11 27 GER Nico Hulkenberg Haas Ferrari 1:18.410 +0.845s 24
12 23 THA Alexander Albon Williams Mercedes 1:18.553 +0.988s 21
13 16 MON Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:18.691 +1.126s 28
14 81 AUS Oscar Piastri McLaren Mercedes 1:18.713 +1.148s 21
15 77 FIN Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Ferrari 1:18.809 +1.244s 24
16 22 JPN Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda 1:18.901 +1.336s 22
17 2 USA Logan Sargeant Williams Mercedes 1:18.947 +1.382s 20
18 20 DEN Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:19.056 +1.491s 26
19 21 NED Nyck De Vries AlphaTauri Honda 1:19.092 +1.527s 23
20 4 GBR Lando Norris McLaren Mercedes 1:19.146 +1.581s 12


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