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Max Verstappen in P2 in third free practice Melbourne

Published on 23 March 2024 by Kees-Jan Koster

Max Verstappen set the second fastest time in the third and final free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix. In the final phase of the race, the Oracle Red Bull Racing driver set a 1:16.734 on soft tyres, putting him in second position behind the fastest man Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) in P3 and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) in P4, all stayed within a tenth of a second of Leclerc.

Under low cloud cover and an outside temperature of 18 degrees Celsius, the third free practice session on the 5,278-meter-long Albert Park Circuit gets underway. After a crash from Alexander Albon in the first free practice session, it is announced that the chassis of the Williams driver cannot be repaired. As Williams did not have a spare chassis available the hard decision is made that Albon will drive the car of teammate Logan Sargeant for the rest of the weekend, putting the unfortunate Sargeant on the sidelines.

Both McLarens of Lando Norris and home race driver Oscar Piastri come out first on track for an installation lap. Max Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez soon follow their example. Perez sets the first time on a set of medium tyres, subsequently Verstappen goes more than six tenths of a second faster. After which Perez goes faster again, before Max sets a 1:17.100 putting him in the lead. After a stint of seven seconds, Max return to the pits.

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz goes three tenths of a second faster than Max and followed not much later by Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, who puts himself in between those two drivers. Verstappen comes back out on track for a long run on medium compound tyres, in which the focus is on race pace.

With fifteen minutes to go, Verstappen has fallen back into P5, when he comes back out on track on soft tyres. Initially, the Dutchman improves his time marginally (1:17.028), but stays in P5, two tenths of a second behind the fastest man Sainz. Max continues to drive on the soft tyres and when the chequered flag comes down, he sets the fastest time of 1:16.734. But then Charles Leclerc sets the fastest time, two hundredths of a second faster than Verstappen. The top of the field is very close together as Carlos Sainz in P3 and Lewis Hamilton in P4 are less than a tenth of a second slower than Leclerc. George Russell finishes fifth, followed by Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez.

At six o’clock Dutch time qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix will start.

Contest GP Australia: win a by Max signed Racing cap!

Results third free practice Australia:

1Charles LeclercLECFerrari1:16.714 21
2Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:16.734+0.020s27
3Carlos SainzSAIFerrari1:16.791+0.077s19
4Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:16.806+0.092s20
5George RussellRUSMercedes1:16.886+0.172s22
6Fernando AlonsoALOAston Martin Mercedes1:16.997+0.283s19
7Sergio PerezPERRed Bull Racing Honda RBPT1:17.014+0.300s27
8Oscar PiastriPIAMcLaren Mercedes1:17.087+0.373s18
9Lance StrollSTRAston Martin Mercedes1:17.341+0.627s21
10Lando NorrisNORMcLaren Mercedes1:17.490+0.776s21
11Yuki TsunodaTSURB Honda RBPT1:17.673+0.959s18
12Valtteri BottasBOTKick Sauber Ferrari1:17.752+1.038s19
13Alexander AlbonALBWilliams Mercedes1:17.759+1.045s22
14Zhou GuanyuZHOKick Sauber Ferrari1:17.876+1.162s18
15Esteban OconOCOAlpine Renault1:17.920+1.206s17
16Nico HulkenbergHULHaas Ferrari1:17.941+1.227s16
17Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:17.961+1.247s17
18Daniel RicciardoRICRB Honda RBPT1:17.963+1.249s19
19Pierre GaslyGASAlpine Renault1:18.390+1.676s18