Ferraris Charles Leclerc beat Red Bulls Max Verstappen by the narrow margin of 0.02s to take top spot in the final practice session for the 2024 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix, with Carlos Sainz in third, just 0.057s behind the defending world champion.

In the opening phase of the hour-long session it was Verstappen and Sergio Prez who set the pace, with the Red Bull drivers trading fastest times on medium tyres and at the quarter-hour mark Verstappen led the way with a 1:17.100 set on his eighth lap on a set of C4 compound Pirelli tyres. Prez sat in second, just 0.05s off that time with Sainz in third.

Lando Norris then bolted on a set of Soft C5 tyres but perhaps owing to the cool temperatures the McLaren driver couldnt make a dent on the top positions and his first effort on the red-walled tyres left him 1.4s off Verstappens medium-tyre pacesetter.

As the halfway mark approached, Sainz vaulted to the top on Mediums, with the Spaniard dipping below 77s to stop the clock at 1:16.791. Leclerc then made his major impression, jumping to P2, two tenths off his team-mate.

With 15 minutes remaining local hero Oscar Piastri became the top Soft tyre runner, slotting into third place with a lap of 1:17.087s, identical to Leclercs medium tyre best.

The Melbourne native was soon shuffled down a place, however, as Lewis Hamilton who had earlier lamented his Mercedes lack of pace, suddenly found plenty to vault to P2, splitting the Ferraris with a 1:16.806.

The entire field was now running Soft tyres as qualifying simulations took over. Getting the red-walled tyres to hold on across the lap proved tricky, however, and Verstappens first effort failed to better his Medium-tyre time.

It looked like the C4 might oddly prove to be the better tyre but in the closing laps of the session, as the chequered flag was flown, Verstappen and Leclerc found a way to keep the Softs alive for the duration of the lap.

First Verstappen rocketed to the top of the order with a 1:16.734 but almost immediately Leclerc posted a 1:16.714s to steal top spot. Sainz remained third overall having been unable to improve on the soft tyres.

Hamilton took fourth on 1:16.806, 0.092 off the pace and 0.08s ahead of team-mate Russell, while Aston Martins Fernando Alonso was sixth ahead of Prez in the other Red Bull RB20. Piastri was ninth ahead of McLaren team-mate Norris

RBs Yuki Tsunoda was 11thahead of Kick Saubers and Valtteri Bottas and Alex Albon, who following his car wrecking Friday crash took over team-mate Logan Sargeant’s Williams, was 13th.

2024 FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Free Practice 3
1 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.714 22 247.683
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:16.734 0.020 28 247.619
3 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:16.791 0.077 20 247.435
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:16.806 0.092 20 247.386
5 George Russell Mercedes 1:16.886 0.172 23 247.129
6 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin 1:16.997 0.283 20 246.773
7 Sergio Prez Red Bull Racing 1:17.014 0.300 28 246.718
8 Oscar Piastri McLaren 1:17.087 0.373 19 246.485
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin 1:17.341 0.627 22 245.675
10 Lando Norris McLaren 1:17.490 0.776 22 245.203
11 Yuki Tsunoda RB 1:17.673 0.959 19 244.625
12 Valtteri Bottas Kick Sauber 1:17.752 1.038 20 244.376
13 Alexander Albon Williams 1:17.759 1.045 23 244.354
14 Zhou Guanyu Kick Sauber 1:17.876 1.162 19 243.987
15 Esteban Ocon Alpine 1:17.920 1.206 18 243.850
16 Nico Hlkenberg Haas 1:17.941 1.227 17 243.784
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:17.961 1.247 18 243.721
18 Daniel Ricciardo RB 1:17.963 1.249 20 243.715
19 Pierre Gasly Alpine 1:18.390 1.676 19 242.388