Norris tops FP3 for McLaren, disaster for Aston Martin

Luke Smith

Sebastian Vettel suffered a high-speed crash exiting Turn 10 before teammate Lance Stroll crashed at Turn 11 in the closing stages, bringing the session to an early end.

After missing the opening two races of the season due to COVID-19, Vettel’s difficult return to action in Australia continued as he crashed out 20 minutes into the session. Vettel lost the rear of his Aston Martin AMR22 because exiting the fast left-right sequence, causing him to run through the gravel and into the wall.

Vettel quickly apologized to the team over the radio before getting out of the car unharmed and then returning to the paddock on the back of a scooter being riden by a marshal.

The crash came after Vettel lost running on Friday after an engine issue sidelined him in FP1 and prevented him from taking any part in FP2. He also received a €5,000 fine for driving a scooter unauthorized on track at the end of FP1 to get back to the paddock.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Things went from bad to worse for Aston Martin when Stroll lost control of his car at Turn 11, causing him to run through the gravel and into the wall with five minutes remaining.

Stroll was unharmed, but the front-left corner of his car was damaged in the impact, leaving Aston Martin with a significant amount of work to complete ahead of qualifying.

The red flag meant that Norris took top spot for McLaren in FP3 after most of the front-running drivers failed to get in a low-fuel run at the very end of the session.

Norris posted a best lap time of 1m19.117s on the soft compound tire to finish one tenth of a second clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. The British driver was told to ease off under the late red flag due to a warning appearing on his dashboard.

Leclerc spent much of the session competing for top spot along with Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who enjoyed a surprisingly competitive session.

Leclerc, Perez and Alonso were covered by just 0.026 seconds in second to fourth, while Sainz sat a couple of tenths behind in fifth place.

Daniel Ricciardo completed a decent session for McLaren as his finished sixth, half a second off his teammate’s time, while Max Verstappen was seventh for Red Bull.

Verstappen set his best time on the medium compound tire but had a tricky session that saw him spin early at Turn 13 before almost losing the rear of his car running through Turn 1 while on a late push lap. “I don’t get why I’m spinning,” Verstappen said over the radio. “It’s really hard to feel the balance at the moment.”

Lewis Hamilton also struggled for Mercedes, finishing eighth after narrowly avoiding the wall when running wide at Turn 11 early in the session. Former teammate Valtteri Bottas took ninth for Alfa Romeo ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who completed the top 10 for AlphaTauri.

George Russell and Pierre Gasly took 11th and 12th respectively ahead of Esteban Ocon, who was over eight tenths of a second off Alonso’s time in the sister Alpine. Mick Schumacher finished 14th for Haas ahead of rookie Guanyu Zhou and Williams’s Alex Albon.

Kevin Magnussen ended FP3 in 17th place after struggling through Friday following some overnight nausea, while Nicholas Latifi sat 18th ahead of the two Aston Martins.

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Australian Grand Prix FP3 times:

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