Following a record breaking crowd yesterday, the F1 faithful turned up again in their thousands for Free Practice 3 (and qualifying…but that is yet to start). First of all, the question from yesterday – were Ferrari hiding their pace? The question arose because they were the fastest in pre-season testing but were considerably off the pace in yesterday’s FP2. Well, the answer is yes – Ferrari were hiding their pace because the engine was turned right down. However, by the end of FP3…they would still be behind Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes who have still got ‘work to do’.
Following a steady start to the session with the pair of Williams drivers maximizing the time to get as much data for the FW42 as possible, the standout team of the session was without a doubt the Haas boys of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who found themselves in 4th and 5th respectively. If that form continues into qualifying then that would certainly result in Guenther Steiner labelling them rockstars!
The conditions saw track temperature at 42.4°C and by the completion of the session it would have reached 45°C, no wonder Pirelli sent out a release informing the media ‘no additional set of intermediate tyres will be made available to each driver before P3.’ The crowd was baking in the sunshine atop the hill on Clark Corner and when their hero Daniel Ricciardo first appeared on track their were cheers from the capacity crowd but hardly the kind of fanatical response shown three hours earlier along the Melbourne Walk. Such a reaction to this warm applause could be interpreted as a crowd who love their driver but have realistic expectations and do not wish to apply too much pressure to him…yet!
Prior to qualifying, Max Verstappen had tweeted to his followers ‘Let’s see what this important day brings us!’ By 3pm it brought him ninth as Red Bull had waited too long to join the fray – but that should change in qualifying. Lewis Hamilton took a while to come out on track and by the time he had done he found his teammate Valterri Bottas second quickest behind…Sebastian Vettel’s 1:23.739 on the soft tyre., it did not take long for that to change as by the end of Hamilton’s first timed lap he was quickest with a 1:23.699 which put him top and confirmed that the Albert Park Circuit was still lacking grip.
Most moments of drama involved Robert Kubica who had an issue entering the pit lane with too much speed and as a result made contact with the wall and caused damage to the rear. Also, earlier in the session a simultaneous release with Lando Norris had seen the cars get very close to each other indeed – welcome back Robert.
Finally, Sebastian Vettel showed some pace when he managed a 1:22.556 on a fresh set of soft tyres but once again Hamilton struck back shortly after with a time that was quicker than Vettel by 0.264 and would not be beaten.
Lewis Hamilton has been on pole at Albert Park seven times and we don’t have to wait much longer to see if he can make it eight.
- Lewis Hamilton (ENG/MER) 1:22.292
- Sebastian Vettel (GER/FER) +0.264
- Charles Leclerc (MON/FER) 0.457
- Romain Grosjean (FRA/HAA) 0.820
- Kevin Magnussen (DEN/HAA) 1.042
- Pierre Gasly (FRA/RBR) 1.075
- Valtteri Bottas (FIN/MER) 1.130
- Daniil Kvyat (RUS/STR) 1.150
- Max Verstappen (NED/RBR) 1.189
- Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/REN) 1.403
- Nico Hulkenberg (GER/REN) 1.445
- Antonio Giovinazzi (ITA/ALF) 1.539
- Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP/MCL) 1.757
- Sergio Perez (MEX/RAC) 1.790
- Alexander Albon (THA/STR) 2.036
- Lance Stroll (CAN/RAC) 2.053
- Kimi Raikkonen (FIN/ALF) 2.110
- Lando Norris (GBR/MCL) 2.276
- George Russell (GBR/WIL) 3.652
- Robert Kubica (POL/WIL) 4.297