Melbourne FP3: Norris springs a surprise

FP3 in Melbourne for the 2022 Australian Grand Prix saw Lando Norris spring a surprise and go fastest around Albert Park for McLaren.

To be honest, it was Lance Stroll’s Red Flag causing crash at the end of the session that prevented the top teams to go for some final hot runs to improve their times, but credit has to be given to the young Briton who was able to get his best lap time on his first run on new tyres.

Charles Leclerc was second for Ferrari, Sergio Perez was third.

Ahead of FP3, the FIA announced the reduction of the DRS zones to three, for safety reasons. In other words, the DRS zone between Turns 6 and 9 was removed.

Document 35 dated April, 09, 2022 issued by race Director Niels Wittich in that regards, it said: “For safety reasons, DRS Zones will be reduced to 3 for the remainder of the event. DRS detection 1 will be moved to before Turn 9, DRS activation 1 will be after Turn 10, DRS detection 2 will remain unchanged, with the following activation zones will be renumbered accordingly.”

Some FP3 highlights

Sebastian Vettel, who was fined € 5000 for his scooter ride back to the pits after his car broke down during FP1 on Friday, was back on track for FP3 with a new power unit bolted to his AMR22, as the first went out in smoke on Friday’s morning session. The German missed FP2 as the team could not get the PU change done in time for that.

The four-time World Champion’s misery continued in Melbourne as he crashed out of FP3, at Turn 10 almost 20 minutes into the session bringing out the Red Flag.

The session was resumed with 30 minutes remaining , and this time however, the German did not drive the scooter himself back to the pits…

Max Verstappen had a moment at Turn 14 while on a hot lap, and while he kept his RB18 in one piece, his lap was ruined. The reigning Champion did not sound really happy over the course of the session, complaining from oversteer first, then from understeer.

Things were so bad as the Dutchman had to abort two consecutive hot laps attempts towards the end of FP3.

Fernando Alonso seemed to be reveling in the Alpine A522, as the Spaniard popped up at the top of the timing screens a couple of time through the session. The French team should be on to a decent weekend down under.

Mercedes continued to struggle, with both its drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell having off-track excursions during the session.

The World Champions are still suffering from “porpoising” which seems to be a problem for Ferrari as well, as the bouncing was quite visible onboard with Carlos Sainz. The Scuderia however can still go fast despite the bouncing.

Lance Stroll added to his team’s troubles as he binned his Aston Martin at Turn 19, with less than five minuted remaining, bringing out the Red Flag, after which the session was not resumed.

How they finished FP3

Norris was able to get all the pace out of his MCL36 on his first attempt with the tyres as others struggle to out heat into theirs, his reward being a lap time of 1:19.117 putting on top of the time screen.

Second best was Charles Leclerc who was 0.132s off the Briton’s pace, and was followed by Sergio Perez in the Red Bull a mere 0.016s further behind.

Fernando Alonso again showed that Alpine may have the pace to mess with the order close to the top, and finished FP3 fourth fastest 0.158s off the pace.

Carlos Sainz took fifth in the other Red Car, and was 0.302s down on the best time of Norris, while the latter’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo went sixth fastest 0.274s adrift from the #55 Ferrari.

Max Verstappen was not happy with his session, proven by his seventh place at the end  almost seven tenths off the pace. Some work to do for the Dutchman ahead of qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton made it into the top ten in eighth, the seven-time World Champion 0.779s down on the benchmark lap time, as his former wingman Valtteri Bottas took ninth 0.112s behind the Mercedes ace.

Yuki Tsunoda rounded off the top ten with a 1:20.071, the gap from first to tenth being only 0.954s.

Melbourne FP3 Results: