Record crowds expected in Melbourne
Standard Sport’s Matt Majendie reports that this could be the biggest event in Australian sporting history in terms of crowd numbers.
An estimated 410,000 fans in total are expected through the turnstiles with 112,466 in attendance on Friday, a rise of 33% from the same time in 2019.
The welcome the drivers receive heading in to Albert Park is extraordinary, with obviously a special reception reserved for home hero Daniel Ricciardo, who was sixth in FP3.
Screens up in the Aston Martin pit garage with only around 50 minutes now until the start of qualifying.
On Sky Sports, Karun Chandhok reports that engineers have had to change both Vettel’s power unit (again) and his gearbox.
Surely that car is not going to be ready?!
Hamilton: ‘Nothing you change on the car makes a difference’
Another weekend of struggle looks to lie ahead for ailing constructors’ champions Mercedes.
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were eighth and 11th quickest respectively in FP3, a session which the Silver Arrows dubbed “experimentation with plenty of interesting data points to learn from.”
Speaking yesterday, Hamilton insisted he was not tired of the toil after finishing 13th in a tricky FP2, but said that none of the changes to his W13 were having the desired impact.
The dreaded porpoising down the straights has also been worse than ever.
“No I feel good, I feel okay, it was a difficult session,” he said.
“It’s just nothing you change on the car makes a difference at the moment, so that’s the difficult thing you know, you’re getting very optimistic and then you make changes and then it doesn’t seem to be wanting to improve.
“We made some changes going into P2, P1 was better and P2 ended up being a bit harder for us. So I don’t know, just a tricky car.”
You really have to feel for Seb, don’t you?
Not only did he miss the first two races of the season due to Covid, with reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg stepping up for Aston Martin, but he also had engine trouble after only 18 laps in FP1 and was then fined €5,000 for taking a scooter onto the Albert Park circuit.
Vettel got a fresh new power unit for FP2, but did not manage to get out of the pits for the session.
Now a heavy crash in FP3 that leaves the engineers with a frantic race to get his car ready for qualifying. Do they have enough parts and indeed enough time to make the necessary repairs?
The damage to his AMR22 was certainly much worse than team-mate Stroll’s car.
Final FP3 classification
Here are the final standings from a shortened FP3, where the four DRS zones implemented for more action at Albert Park were reduced to three for safety reasons.
As you can see, most drivers were out on the soft compound tyres…
FP3 report: Norris quickest after Aston Martin nightmare
FP3 has not long finished at Albert Park, with a short gap between the third practice session and the start of qualifying.
Carlos Sainz edged Ferrari team-mate Charles Leclerc in FP1 yesterday, before the latter got the better of title rival Max Verstappen in the second stint.
But it was actually McLaren’s Lando Norris who led the way earlier, ahead of Leclerc, Sergio Perez, the ever-impressive Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz.
The session was red-flagged twice after a nightmare for Aston Martin, who had already seen Sebastian Vettel – back behind the wheel this weekend after missing both of the opening races of the season due to Covid-19 – career across the gravel and smash into the wall after a high-speed off at turn 10.
There was considerable damage to the four-time world champion’s AMR22 and if the engineers back in the garage didn’t already have enough to do before qualifying, Vettel’s team-mate Lance Stroll then hit the wall after his own miscalculation at turn 11.
Thankfully both drivers walked away unscathed… but will they be ready for qualifying? A bad start to the season just gets worse for the Silverstone-based team.
Melbourne weather update
No problem with the conditions in Melbourne today, as you might expect.
It’s almost 2:30pm in the afternoon there, with highs of 25 degrees and plenty of sunny intervals with a moderate breeze.
Perfect conditions for racing!
How to watch
TV channel: Qualifying will be shown live on Sky Sports Main Event and F1 this morning, with coverage beginning at 6am.
Live stream: Sky Sports subscribers can also tune in via the Sky Go app.
Highlights: Channel 4 will be airing full free-to-air highlights at 11am.