AS BOTH ASTON MARTIN DRIVERS CRASH
Lando Norris claimed top spot for McLaren in the final practice session for the Australian Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull Racing’s Sergio Pérez as Aston Martin endured a torrid session with both Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll crashing out.
The session got off to a muted start, with just the Alfa Romeo and Haas cars taking to the track but with none of that quartet choosing to set times. The action properly got underway after eight minutes when McLaren’s Lando Norris set a time of 1m21.247s, several seconds off Friday’s afternoon pace.
That sparked the rest of the field into life and soon both Red Bulls were lapping. Verstappen took top spot with a lap of 1:21.178 on medium tyres but he was quickly bounced out of top spot by team-mate Sergio Pérez who went 0.015s quicker on the same compound.
Ferrari then joined the fray and Leclerc made his way to the top of the timesheets on the soft tyres with a lap of 1:20.689. Pérez was starting another push lap however and when he crossed the line he again took P1, this time with a time of 1:20.436.
His stay there was brief. First Sainz took over in P1 and then Alpine’s Fernando Alonso rose to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:20.119.
And there the running halted. Sebastian Vettel, keen to make up for time lost to an engine issue on Friday afternoon, hit the wall at Turn 10, badly damaging the front of his Aston Martin, and the session was red-flagged.
The session was delayed for 11 minutes while marshals cleared the debris from Vettel’s crash from the track and when running resumed the entire field queued at the pit exit awaiting the green light.
Verstappen was second in the queue behind one of the AlphaTauris and when the pit lane opened he powered past the blue and white car to avail himself of a clean track, a move noted by the stewards but which ultimately resulted in no action being taken.
Verstappen quickly set about winding up the pace on medium tyres and after posting a purple middle sector he might have gone quicker than Alonso, but the Dutchman suffered a spin in the penultimate corner. He headed back to the pits to plot another run.
It was Pérez who eventually usurped Alonso, with the Mexican climbing to the top of the order with a lap of 1:19.720 as Alonso improved to hold second ahead of Leclerc and Norris. Alonso went for another attempt, however, and he retook P1 with a lap of 1:19.660.
Leclerc slotted into P2 with a lap of 1:19.703 but then Pérez found more time to go more than two tenths quicker than the Ferrari driver. Alonso also edged ahead of Leclerc by four hundredths of a second to take P2 as Verstappen took fourth, still on medium compound tyres. Sainz then jumped to P1 with a lap of 1:19.419, four hundredths of a second ahead of Pérez.
With 12 minutes left on the clock, Norris vaulted to P1 with a lap of 1:19.117 as team-mate Ricciardo also improved, claiming fifth place on the timesheet. Verstappen finally emerged on soft tyres, but once again his run was compromised by an error and he sat in seventh as the session headed into its final 10 minutes.
He retreated to the pits before quickly going for another run. Again, though, he suffered with understeer, this time into Turn 1 and he was forced to back out of another push lap.
With four minutes remaining the session was again red-flagged and Aston Martin’s session went from bad to worse as Lance Stroll slid off the track at Turn 11. He hit the barriers on and broke his front left suspension. With time running out, FIA officials decided not to resume running and Norris was left with P1 ahead of Leclerc, Pérez, Alonso and Sainz.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:19.117 12 240.160
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:19.249 0.132 15 239.760
3 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1:19.265 0.148 17 239.712
4 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:19.275 0.158 15 239.682
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:19.419 0.302 17 239.247
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:19.693 0.576 14 238.424
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:19.809 0.692 16 238.078
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.896 0.779 13 237.819
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:20.008 0.891 17 237.486
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1:20.071 0.954 12 237.299
11 George Russell Mercedes 1:20.096 0.979 16 237.225
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1:20.133 1.016 14 237.115
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:20.205 1.088 14 236.902
14 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:20.692 1.575 17 235.473
15 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:20.836 1.719 16 235.053
16 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:20.958 1.841 16 234.699
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:21.025 1.908 14 234.505
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:21.050 1.933 14 234.433
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:21.636 2.519 11 232.750
20 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes - 5