FP3: Norris quickest as Aston Martin see double red

Michelle Foster
Lando Norris leaves the garage. Australia April 2022

McLaren driver Lando Norris leaves the garage. Australia April 2022

Lando Norris set the pace in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel’s weekend went from bad to worse with a crash.

The German brought out the red flags when he lost it at Turn 10, crashing into the barrier nose first, his session over.

Aston Martin were handed a double headache when his team-mate Lance Stroll ended his practice in the Turn 11 barriers, another repair job for the team with just two hours before qualifying starts.

Norris was a surprise P1, finishing a tenth ahead of Charles Leclerc with Sergio Perez P3. Max Verstappen did not do a flying lap on the soft tyres.

The drivers took to the Albert Park circuit with one DRS zone less to play in after the FIA opted overnight to remove the zone from Turn 9 for safety reasons.

It also began one driver light with Lance Stroll stuck in the pits as Aston Martin worked on the Canadian’s car, the team said to be making changes in light of that DRS decision.

His team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who missed Friday’s second practice after his FP1 engine issue, seemed to have better luck and was quickly out on track although instead of completing a lap, he did three through the pits.

Sergio Perez set the opening benchmark time, a 1:21.0, with Max Verstappen third and Lando Norris P3. It was all change as the Ferraris came out to place, Charles Leclerc hitting the front.

Ferrari trailed a new diffuser on Friday, putting it on the Monégasque driver’s car, but have opted not to run it today as they only have one and they don’t want to favour either driver.

Carlos Sainz came out to play with a 1:20.390, the Spaniard going quickest despite notably porpoising and his head bouncing around in the cockpit. Leclerc seemed to be suffering less with the bouncing.

Fernando Alonso hit the front with a 1:20.119, Perez had a close encounter with the wall at the final corner, Lewis Hamilton struggled to stop his car, ate dirt and almost hit the wall… And then Sebastian Vettel did hit out.

The red flags were waved as the Aston Martin driver had a high-speed off at Turn 10, hitting the wall at the exit of the corner. “Sorry guys,” said the German, who was soon scooting his way back to the pits although this time in a legal manner.

The pit lane light went green with 28 minutes remaining in the session with Sainz out on used softs and Verstappen on used mediums, the two trading purple sector times.

Verstappen’s came to naught when he spun at the final corner while Sainz closed the gap to Alonso but stayed P2. Valtteri Bottas was also on a flier but locked up in the final corner.

Alonso had no such problems, the Alpine driver clocking a 1:19.906 to stay P1 by 0.001s over Leclerc. Norris was up to third ahead of Sainz, Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo. All 20 drivers – excluding the Aston Martin team-mates – had a time on the board with 20 to go.

Swapping to the soft Pirelli tyres, Perez went quickest with a 1:19.720, George Russell added his name to the growing list of drivers going off the track, and Alonso returned to P1 by 0.060s ahead of Perez.

Leclerc moved up to third and Hamilton, purple in the first sector but losing heaps of time in the final one as he bounced all over the place, climbed from 18th to ninth as his team-mate Russell shot up to fifth.

Going for a second push lap, Sainz put his F1-75 up into P1, a 19.419 for the Spaniard, while Stroll finally left the pits. But his opening gambit, a 1:22:451 was over three seconds off the pace.

Putting on fresh soft tyres for their final run before qualifying, Norris hit the front, Verstappen aborted his first flying lap on the soft tyres after cutting the grass, and then got it wrong at Turn 1 on his second attempt. He reported “quite a bit of understeer”.

Stroll, putting in his 11th lap of the session, brought an early end to FP3 as he crashed into the Turn 11 barriers.  “I crashed,” he said, both Aston Martins now in need of repairs.

Norris finished P1 by 0.132s ahead of Leclerc with Perez in third but the McLaren driver had a late problem, told to ease his way back to the pits.


1 Lando Norris McLaren 1:19.117 12 laps
2 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 0.132s 15 laps
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull 0.148s 17 laps
4 Fernando Alonso Alpine 0.158s 15 laps
5 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 0.302s 17 laps
6 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 0.576s 14 laps
7 Max Verstappen Red Bull 0.692s 16 laps
8 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 0.779s 13 laps
9 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo Racing 0.891s 17 laps
10 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 0.954s 12 laps
11 George Russell Mercedes 0.979s 16 laps
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 1.016s 14 laps
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1.088s 14 laps
14 Mick Schumacher Haas 1.575s 17 laps
15 Guanyu Zhou Alfa Romeo Racing 1.719s 16 laps
16 Alex Albon Williams 1.841s 16 laps
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1.908s 14 laps
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams 1.933s 14 laps
19 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 2.519s 11 laps
20 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin no time 5 laps
20 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin no time 5 laps