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Verstappen fastest as Perez suffers an Australian nightmare

Verstappen fastest as Perez suffers an Australian nightmare

F1 News

Verstappen fastest as Perez suffers an Australian nightmare

Verstappen fastest as Perez suffers an Australian nightmare

Max Verstappen set the pace in final practice for the Australian Grand Prix as Sergio Perez suffered a session to forget.

The reigning champion will head into qualifying as the man to beat after setting the pace with a one-minute 17.565secs.

Fernando Alonso was second as Esteban Ocon showed strong pace for Alpine in third - the Frenchman ending the session 0.373s back.

But it was a nightmare session for Perez, who remained stuck in the garage for a period before falling off the track on numerous occasions.

Charles Leclerc set the early pace after the first runs as Ferrari quickly was quick to fit soft tyres to both cars.

But Verstappen's effort on medium tyres to fall just 0.05s off this benchmark raised eyebrows, with the delta between the two compounds believed to be in the region of four-five tenths.

Perez, Norris and Zhou in strife

But the session didn't get off to such a smooth start for Perez on the opposite side of the Red Bull garage, as the Mexican lost 20 minutes of the session through a reported suspension problem.

When he did eventually join the track, his opening effort was ended by a slow-moving Nico Hulkenberg, who drifted across the track to block the Red Bull while on a high-fuel run.

As the session ticked past the halfway point, Kevin Magnussen suffered the first major off of the session as he locked up on the run into the final chicane before skating over the wet grass.

Shortly after this, the session was paused as the red flags were shown to allow for debris to be removed from the track on the run to turn nine after Nyck de Vries lost part of his sidepod bodywork.

The interruption came at exactly the wrong moment for the teams as the majority of the field were completing long-run simulations at the time.

Once the session resumed, Perez continued his difficult session with a pair of offs at turn three on consecutive push laps.

With 20 minutes remaining, It was Lando Norris' turn to suffer as his McLaren was lifted onto the stands in the garage after the team discovered a clutch problem - something that prematurely ended his session.

As the session dipped into the final 14 minutes, Zhou Guanyu caused the yellow flags to be displayed. After going fifth fastest, he locked up into turn one, hopped across the grass and nudged the concrete barrier on the exit of turn two.

With only minor damage, he was able to continue.

Amid reports of drizzle falling in the first sector, teams quickly reverted to qualifying simulations in case the dark clouds broke.

With three minutes remaining, the rain did intensify slightly and, once again, Perez found himself in trouble as has ran off the track and took a trip through the gravel at the turns one-two chicane, an error that was quickly repeated by Leclerc.

To make matters even worse, Perez was then caught out by the red lights at the end of the pit lane before he could complete a practice start.

Australian Grand Prix final practice results

1. Max Verstappen [Red Bull] - 1:17.565

2. Fernando Alonso [Aston Martin] - +0.162

3. Esteban Ocon [Alpine] - +0.373

4. George Russell [Mercedes] - +0.390

5. Pierre Gasly [Alpine] - +0.529

6. Sergio Perez [Red Bull] - +0.588

7. Carlos Sainz [Ferrari] - +0.562

8. Lewis Hamilton [Mercedes] - +0.573

9. Lance Stroll [Aston Martin] - +0.633

10. Zhou Guanyu [Alfa Romeo] - +0.765

11. Nico Hulkenberg [Haas] - +0.845

12. Alex Albon [Williams] - +0.988

13. Charles Leclerc [Ferrari] - +1.126

14. Oscar Piastri [McLaren] - +1.148

15. Valtteri Bottas [Alfa Romeo] - +1.244

16. Yuki Tsunoda [AlphaTauri] - +1.336

17. Logan Sargeant [Williams] - +1.382

18. Kevin Magnussen [Haas] -+1.491

19. Nyck de Vries [AlphaTauri] - +1.527

20. Lando Norris [McLaren] - +1.581

READ MORE: F1 Team Principals: Who are the men in charge in 2023?

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