FP3: Verstappen leads Alonso and Ocon in incident-filled third practice session in Melbourne
Max Verstappen led the way in an eventful third practice session in Melbourne, with the championship leader placing ahead of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, as the drivers got their final preparation laps in ahead of qualifying later today.
As the lights turned green, it was Lance Stroll who led the drivers out onto the track for a start of a busy hour of running, as they looked to make up for lost time from Friday’s rain-affected FP2 session.
DATA POINTS: What we learned from Friday practice in Australia
Carlos Sainz (P7) set the early pace on the soft tyre, with a time of 1m 18.127s, to lead his compatriot Fernando Alonso by 0.202s, as many drivers went for long high fuel runs to start the day.
However, the drivers preparation was briefly halted by a red flag, as the marshals had to come onto the track to clear a piece of bodywork that had flown off Nyck de Vries’s (P19) AlphaTauri on the entry to Turn nine.
FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2023
Practice 3 results
|1 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing||1:17.565|
|2 Fernando Alonso ALO Aston Martin||+0.162s|
|3 Esteban Ocon OCO Alpine||+0.373s|
|4 George Russell RUS Mercedes||+0.390s|
|5 Pierre Gasly GAS Alpine||+0.529s|
However, with the track now clear, times began to tumble with Max Verstappen setting a time of 1m 17.565s to lead Alonso, in the Aston Martin, by 0.162s.
It was an impressive display from Alpine, with Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly going third and fifth fastest, respectively, with the French pair sandwiching the Mercedes of George Russell in fourth.
READ MORE: FIA Team Principals press conference - Australia
The other Red Bull of Sergio Perez was sixth fastest, after enduring a messy FP3 that began with him leaving the pit lane 20 minutes into the session as work was carried out on the rear suspension of his RB19 – with the Mexican also struggling with his braking into Turn 3 especially, much to his frustration.
The aforementioned Sainz was seventh quickest – although he will be thankful to have escaped heavy damage after going off at Turn 11 on his way back to the pit lane at the end of the session. The Spaniard finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton in P8 and Lance Stroll in P9.
Zhou Guanyu was 10th quickest, although he was also lucky to escape serious damage to his Alfa Romeo after going off track and making contact with the barrier at Turn 2. Nico Hulkenberg was 11th fastest for Haas, ahead of Alex Albon, with the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc in 13th.
Home hero Oscar Piastri – who continued to be greeted with cheers from the Melbourne crowd each time he left the McLaren garage – was 14th fastest, ahead of the other Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas, with Yuki Tsunoda in P16.
READ MORE: What the teams said – Friday practice in Australia
Logan Sargeant – returning to the track after missing FP2 on Friday with an electronics issue on his Williams – was down in 17th, ahead of Kevin Magnussen in 18th.
Nyck de Vries in the AlphaTauri was 19th, with Lando Norris at the bottom of the pack, with the McLaren driver being confined to the garage late in the proceedings with a suspected clutch problem on his MCL60.
Join us again at 1600 local time for what looks set to be a fascinating qualifying session at Albert Park ahead of Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.