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FP3: Leclerc leads Verstappen and Sainz during ultra-close final practice in Australia

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 on track

Charles Leclerc narrowly kept Ferrari at the top of the timesheets during Saturday’s third and final practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, edging out Red Bull rival Max Verstappen and team mate Carlos Sainz.

In a cooler and cloudier session at Albert Park compared to yesterday’s running, Sainz initially led the way during runs on the medium tyres before a late switch to softs from the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers triggered some improvements.

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With little to separate the two compounds around Melbourne’s streets, it took several laps for lap time gains to be made – Leclerc ultimately coming out on top thanks to a time of 1m 16.714s, which was just a couple of hundredths faster than Verstappen.

Australia 2024

Practice 3 results

PositionTeam NameTime
1LEC1:16.714
2VER+0.02s
3SAI+0.077s
4HAM+0.092s
5RUS+0.172s
View Full Results

Sainz’s assured return to action continued in third, a few hundredths further back, with Mercedes pair Lewis Hamilton and George Russell enjoying a more competitive session en route to fourth and fifth respectively.

Fernando Alonso put his Aston Martin sixth, followed by the other Red Bull of Sergio Perez, while Oscar Piastri was the fastest of the Australian drivers in action as he took eighth for McLaren – still only 0.373s down on Leclerc’s benchmark amid the fine margins involved.

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The top 10 places were rounded out by the second Aston Martin and McLaren machines of Lance Stroll and Lando Norris, from RB’s Yuki Tsunoda, Kick Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas and the sole Williams of Alex Albon.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Fernando Alonso of Spain driving the (14) Aston Martin AMR24

It was a slightly cooler, cloudier start to proceedings at Albert Park on Saturday

Williams made the headlines on Friday after Albon’s crash in FP1 wrote off his chassis and, without a spare one on hand, the team made the bold call to put him into Logan Sargeant’s car for the rest of the weekend – meaning the American is watching from the sidelines.

Zhou Guanyu was 14th in his Kick Sauber, ahead of Esteban Ocon, the Haas machines of Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo’s RB and the other Alpine of Pierre Gasly, who could not get a clean lap in on the soft tyres.

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After a much quieter session compared to Friday’s FP1 and FP2 outings, the drivers and teams will now regroup before qualifying later this afternoon, which is due to get under way at 16:00 local time.

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