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Leclerc tops the timing board, but Verstappen isn't far behind

Phil Branagan
Saturday, 23 March 2024

Ferrari and Charles Leclerc have snatched the fastest time to come out on top after a hard-fought third and final Practice session in the FORMULA 1 ROLEX AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX 2024 at Albert Park.

The Monegasque driver waited until the final seconds of the one-hour session to snatch the best time from Red Bull and Max Verstappen, with a lap of 1:16.714sec, just 0.02sec faster than the triple World Champion.

For most of the session, it looked like Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz had seized the advantage at the start of the hour. For most of the session, no one was able to match the Spaniard, whose lap of 1:16.791sec was the fastest in the first 45 minutes of the session.


But then along came Verstappen and finally Leclerc to change things in the final seconds.

For most of the session, Lewis Hamilton struggled with a straight-line speed disadvantage to miss the top six places, but overcame that late to jump to fourth fastest time. Less than 0.1sec covered the four fastest drivers.

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Leclerc and Verstappen were the only drivers in the top four to set their times on the Soft C5 Pirelli tyres. Amid the coolest track temperatures of the weekend, many drivers found that the Medium C4 compound of Pirelli’s three tyre choices was the rubber to be on during the session.

George Russell was fifth fastest, both Mercedes drivers finding that their cars had a straight-line speed deficit compared to the Red Bulls and Ferraris which is perplexing, given that the Mercedes-engined Aston Martins, McLarens and Williams did not seem to have that problem.

Fernando Alonso was sixth fastest for Aston Martin ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Perez and Oscar Piastri, who was the faster of the McLaren drivers (teammate Lando Norris finished the session in 10th place).

Daniel Ricciardo had a tough session, and finished down in 18th position in the RB-Honda. There were only 19 cars on the track, with Logan Sargeant sidelined for the weekend after Alex Albon’s crash on Friday.

The cars will return to the track for the three-part Qualifying session at 4:00 pm.