Verstappen shines, Perez stumbles in final practice at Melbourne

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photo: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen paced the final practice session before Australian Grand Prix qualifying, putting together a time of 1:17.565. Fernando Alonso came in .162 seconds behind, at 1:17.727, with the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly landing third and fifth on the timesheets, respectively, with times of 1:17.938 and 1:18.094. George Russell came across in fourth with a fastest lap of 1:17.955, with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton setting the eighth fastest time at 1:18.138.

In a relatively uneventful practice session–only a brief red flag for debris, and rain only appearing late–the most on-track drama came from Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who, despite setting the sixth fastest time (1:18.123), had a session that started late due to technical issues and was plagued with balance issues and resulting off-track excursions. Zhou Guanyu had the other notable incident of FP3, with his Alfa Romeo going through the grass at turn one, spinning, and tapping the turn two wall, but was able to continue, and set the tenth fastest time of the day with a 1:18.330.

The Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc topped the timesheets for much of the session, but focused on race pace as everyone else went into qualifying trim, and their respective times of 1:18.127 and 1:18.691 were good for seventh and twelfth overall. Lance Stroll came in ninth in the other Aston Martin with a time of 1:18.198, followed by Zhou, Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas (1:18.410), and Alexander Albon’s Williams (1:18.553).

Oscar Piastri put together quality laps for McLaren, placing fourteenth with a time of 1:18.713, but teammate Lando Norris spent much of the session in the garage and only mustered a 1:19.146, slowest on the grid, in only twelve laps run. Valtteri Bottas was fifteenth for Alfa Romeo with a lap of 1:18.809, with both Alpha Tauri drivers Yuki Tsunoda and Nyck de Vries coming in sixteenth and nineteenth, respectively, at 1:18.901 and 1:19.092, sandwiching Williams’ Logan Sargeant (1:18.947) and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen (1:19.056).