The McLaren driver caught the eye as he jumped to the top of the timesheets during the soft tyre qualifying simulation runs in FP3 to head Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc by 0.132s. 

Sergio Perez wound up third-quickest for Red Bull, while teammate Max Verstappen was only seventh after he failed to set a representative time on the soft tyre after aborting both of his runs following wide moments. 

The reigning world champion also suffered a spin at the penultimate corner as he struggled to hook together a clean lap during a scrappy session and finished 0.692s adrift. 

Fernando Alonso was just 0.158s off the pace as he took fourth for Alpine, outpacing Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari and the second McLaren of home favourite Daniel Ricciardo, who ended up over half a second down. 

Final practice has teased the exciting prospect of a potential four-way battle for pole position in qualifying on Saturday afternoon, although Norris’ session-leading lap was slower than the outright benchmark set by Leclerc in FP2. 

Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton survived a brush with the wall at Turn 11 during a trip through the gravel on his way to returning to the top-10 with the eighth-fastest time, some 0.779s off the pace. 

While it was an improved showing in terms of pure pace for Mercedes on Saturday morning, Hamilton and teammate George Russell - who was 11th - struggled with braking throughout the final hour of practice, highlighted by off-track moments for both drivers. 

Valtteri Bottas and Yuki Tsunoda completed the top 10 for Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri respectively, with both finishing within a second of Norris.  

Nightmare session for Aston Martin 

Final practice could not have gone much worse for Aston Martin as Lance Stroll and Aston Martin propped up the timesheets following separate crashes. 

Vettel, making his return after missing the first two races due to COVID-19, caused the first red flag of FP3 when he slammed into the barriers at the high-speed Turn 10. 

The four-time world champion has been restricted to limited running at the modified Albert Park track after an engine change following a stoppage in opening practice sidelined him for the entirety of FP2. 

Vettel’s crash came on his fifth lap of the session, while teammate Stroll managed just 11 laps before he also ended up in the wall after running deep into Turn 11, bringing out a late red flag which ended FP3 prematurely. 

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix gets underway at 7am BST.