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Melbourne FP3 Leclerc Leads Four Drivers Within a Tenth

Melbourne, FP3: Leclerc Leads, Four Drivers Within a Tenth

23/03/2024

Under shifting skies, Melbourne’s third F1 practice session revealed surprising dynamics among the drivers, with Verstappen and Perez leading.

Under a heavily clouded sky, a stark contrast to the previous day’s splendid weather, the third free practice session of the 2024 Australian Grand Prix took place in Melbourne. Nineteen drivers lined up at the start, following Logan Sargeant’s exclusion by Williams after Alex Albon’s crash in FP1.

Sergio Perez set the initial benchmark with a time of 1’19″206, while Max Verstappen reported brake issues: “They’re not working, they’re not biting,” he remarked before suggesting a test instead of an immediate change.

This test evidently proved successful as the triple world champion outpaced his teammate with a time of 1’18″591. Like Perez, he was on medium tires, and the duo from Red Bull were the only ones on track at the beginning of the session.

Perez responded with a 1’17″927, amusing Pierre Waché, the technical director, and Christian Horner, the team principal, who were seen laughing at the pit wall. Perez noted that the brakes felt better on his second lap. Aston Martin F1 drivers and Carlos Sainz then joined the track.

The Red Bull drivers improved their times, with Verstappen taking the lead with a 1’17″100, and Perez closely behind at 1’17″150. Carlos Sainz placed 1.3 seconds behind, then narrowed the gap to four-tenths, while Charles Leclerc was six-tenths off the pace.

Lewis Hamilton, on soft tires, like George Russell, was 1.5 seconds adrift, losing 1.1 seconds on the straight alone, which appeared to frustrate him significantly. Sainz recorded the fastest time in 1’16″791, still on medium tires.

Lando Norris secured the fifth position on soft tires, with Russell moving up to sixth with the same compound. Leclerc, on mediums, improved but eventually spun in the final sector after a mistake. Albon also failed to improve in the last sector, while Oscar Piastri took the sixth time.

Lance Stroll, on soft tires, moved up to ninth behind Daniel Ricciardo, Nico Hülkenberg climbed to eighth, and Hamilton advanced to sixth. All these drivers were on soft tires.

Russell improved to fifth place with soft tires, which were not the most effective in the cooler conditions compared to the previous day. Leclerc, again on mediums, moved up to second, 0.296 seconds behind Sainz, this time without an error in his final sector.

Leclerc expressed frustration at being hindered by an Aston Martin: “One thing’s for sure, there’s always an Aston Martin in the middle of the track at some point. Always, damn it.”

Albon, one of the five drivers yet to switch to soft tires, moved up to seventh place but mentioned that the rear tires were “dead after turn 9.” Piastri overtook him in position, while the Ferraris and Red Bulls had not yet switched to soft tires.

Piastri set the third fastest time with an absolute best first sector, and didn’t hesitate to make a self-deprecating remark about his previous errors: “It’s crazy what happens when you stop being an idiot in turn 1.”

Russell complained over the radio about being regularly impeded by his teammate: “Guys, I keep finding Lewis on track, every time!” Hamilton, however, improved to second place, while Verstappen switched to soft tires.

The Dutchman clocked the fifth-fastest time, not improving on his best medium tire time, while Russell moved up to third, just behind his teammate. Ricciardo also accelerated to 12th place, and Tsunoda to ninth.

Sainz improved the absolute best first sector but was unable to beat his previous best time on medium tires. Verstappen enhanced the second sector to move up to fourth, and Russell closed to within less than a tenth of Sainz. Leclerc then moved up to third, only 0.033 seconds behind his teammate.

Perez climbed to fifth, but it was Verstappen who improved to claim the session’s fastest time in 1’16″734! Alonso secured the sixth time, and Leclerc beat Verstappen with a 1’16″714! Sainz is third, ahead of the Mercedes, Alonso, Perez, Piastri, Stroll, and Norris.

However, Sainz is under investigation for not adhering to the start procedure protocol. The race direction will review the Ferrari driver’s case after the session.

Pos.DriverTeamTimeLaps
01Charles LeclercFerrari SF-241:16.71422
02Max VerstappenRed Bull Honda RBPT RB201:16.73428
03Carlos SainzFerrari SF-241:16.79120
04Lewis HamiltonMercedes W151:16.80620
05George RussellMercedes W151:16.88623
06Fernando AlonsoAston Martin Mercedes AMR241:16.99720
07Sergio PérezRed Bull Honda RBPT RB201:17.01428
08Oscar PiastriMcLaren Mercedes MCL381:17.08719
09Lance StrollAston Martin Mercedes AMR241:17.34122
10Lando NorrisMcLaren Mercedes MCL381:17.49022
11Yuki TsunodaRB Honda RBPT VCARB 011:17.67319
12Valtteri BottasStake F1 Kick Sauber C441:17.75220
13Alex AlbonWilliams Mercedes FW461:17.75923
14Guanyu ZhouStake F1 Kick Sauber C441:17.87619
15Esteban OconAlpine Renault A5241:17.92018
16Nico HülkenbergHaas Ferrari VF-241:17.94117
17Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari VF-241:17.96118
18Daniel RicciardoRB Honda RBPT VCARB 011:17.96320
19Pierre GaslyAlpine Renault A5241:18.39019

Melbourne, FP3: Leclerc Leads, Four Drivers Within a Tenth. Melbourne, FP3: Leclerc Leads, Four Drivers Within a Tenth. f1 2024 Melbourne FP3 Leclerc Leads Four Drivers Within a Tenth

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