Saturday, Mar 16 05:26pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Lewis Hamilton holds the edge heading into qualifying

It’s advantage to Mercedes heading into qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton topped the final practice session.


The teams and drivers got one hour for Free Practice 3 around the Albert Park Street Circuit. For most it was a chance to show some pace before the three-part shootout.


Unsurprisingly it was Hamilton who led the way, but only a fraction ahead of his Ferrari rivals. Two tenths split Hamilton to Vettel in the session, a 1:22.292 for Hamilton against a 1:22.556 meant there was only 0.264 between them.


Hamilton’s time was the fastest of the weekend and six tenths quicker than last year’s pole position lap that he set too.


Just back of them was Ferrari newcomer Charles Leclerc. The Frenchman has been consistently quick in the first three practice sessions, but he has yet to usurp Vettel.


Having claimed that Mercedes were at a disadvantage to Ferrari, it still seems odd that the Italian outfit haven’t been able to overcome the Silver Arrows yet. Perhaps qualifying will see a different story.


The Ferrari-powered Haas cars were impressive in the third outing of the weekend setting the fourth and fifth fastest times. Frenchman Romain Grosjean lead Danish driver Kevin Magnussen.


Pierre Gasly finally managed to best Max Verstappen by going sixth fastest in the session, but perhaps the biggest upset was that of Valtteri Bottas who was only seventh fastest and over a second off his teammate.


Daniil Kvyat was eighth for Scuderia Toro Rosso and just ahead of Max Verstappen while Daniel Ricciardo completed the top 10 at his new-found home Renault.


Just on the outside of the top 10 was Ricciardo’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg. Little has split the pair so far—just four hundredths between them at the end of the session.


Having looked likely to crack the top 10 at times this weekend, Antonio Giovinazzi was 12th for Alfa Romeo. It’s not the first time he has raced in Formula 1, though this will be his full-time debut.


Carlos Sainz (McLaren), Sergio Perez (Racing Point), Alexander Albon (Toro Rosso), Lance Stroll (Racing Point), Kimi Rakkonen (Alfa Romeo) and Lando Norris (McLaren) were all within a little over two seconds off the lead time. However, Williams drivers George Russell and Robert Kubica were a disappointment down in 19th and 20th three and four seconds off the pace.


Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix gets underway at 7:00pm NZST on Saturday.  


Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Free Practice 3 


Pos   Driver Team Laps Time Diff
1 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 12 1'22.292  
2 Germany Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 12 1'22.556 +0.264
3 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 12 1'22.749 +0.457
4 France Romain Grosjean Haas 17 1'23.112 +0.820
5 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1'23.334 +1.042
6 France Pierre Gasly Red Bull 17 1'23.367 +1.075
7 Finland Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 17 1'23.422 +1.130
8 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 16 1'23.442 +1.150
9 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 19 1'23.481 +1.189
10 Australia Daniel Ricciardo Renault 14 1'23.695 +1.403
11 Germany Nico Hulkenberg Renault 15 1'23.737 +1.445
12 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 16 1'23.831 +1.539
13 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren 21 1'24.049 +1.757
14 Mexico Sergio Perez Racing Point 18 1'24.082 +1.790
15 Thailand Alex Albon Toro Rosso 15 1'24.328 +2.036
16 Canada Lance Stroll Racing Point 16 1'24.345 +2.053
17 Finland Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 18 1'24.402 +2.110
18 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 16 1'24.568 +2.276
19 United Kingdom George Russell Williams 14 1'25.944 +3.652
20 Poland Robert Kubica Williams 16 1'26.589 +4.297
Photo: Mercedes-AMG