Gap closes but Hamilton still fastest in FP3

Image by Andy Hone/LAT

Gap closes but Hamilton still fastest in FP3

Formula 1

Gap closes but Hamilton still fastest in FP3

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Lewis Hamilton completed a clean sweep of the three practice sessions for the Australian Grand Prix but Ferrari closed the gap on Saturday morning.

FP2 saw Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas enjoy an advantage of 0.8s over the rest of the field, with Sebastian Vettel admitting he was lacking confidence in a car that had looked quick throughout pre-season testing. However, things were much less smooth for Mercedes in FP3, with Hamilton setting the pace but Bottas down in seventh place.

Hamilton’s best lap was a 1m22.292s during the qualifying simulations, with Vettel ending up a quarter of a second adrift in second place. Ferrari might be slightly off the pace, but Charles Leclerc was third overall with a 1m:22.749s as both drivers got cleaner laps than Bottas.

Haas displayed excellent pace to end up fourth and fifth with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen respectively, the former just 0.8s adrift of Hamilton and the only other driver within a second of the fastest time.

Magnussen then led an extremely closely matched set of cars that included the Red Bulls and Toro Rossos, with Pierre Gasly fifth ahead of Bottas and Daniil Kvyat. Max Verstappen was ninth quickest after a scrappy lap, but the gap between Verstappen and Magnussen in fifth was just 0.147s.

Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top ten and will have been encouraged to be just one position behind former teammate Verstappen, but less so to have a 1.4s deficit to the front and be over half a second adrift of the lead Haas.

After a tricky opening day of practice, Alexander Albon continued to struggle to match teammate Kvyat, ending up nearly a second slower than the Russian in the Toro Rosso. Albon was somewhat surprisingly ahead of Kimi Raikkonen as the Finn — sixth quickest on Friday — struggled to get in a clear lap for Alfa Romeo, with only Lando Norris and the two Williams drivers slower than the 2007 world champion.

Norris was involved in an incident at the start of the session that is under investigation after being released into the path of Robert Kubica in the pit lane, while Kubica himself ended up slowest overall after touching the pit wall at the pit entry and slightly damaging his car.

Williams did look slightly more competitive than on Friday, with George Russell 19th and 1.4s off the back of the field.

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