Verstappen tops both Ferraris in Japan FP3

Steven Tee/Motorsport Images

Verstappen tops both Ferraris in Japan FP3

Formula 1

Verstappen tops both Ferraris in Japan FP3


Max Verstappen comfortably beat both Ferrari drivers in a busy final practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Verstappen, who can guarantee himself a second championship this weekend if he wins the grand prix with the fastest lap, left his best lap until the final five minutes of the chaotic hour of track running. His best time of 1m 30.671s beat Carlos Sainz, who had previously controlled the top of the time sheet, by 0.294s.

The Dutchman was quickest relative to Ferrari in the more downforce-dependent first sector, but the two cars were more evenly matched for the rest of the lap. He was also quicker at the speed trap.

Long-run simulations appeared to show both cars being relatively similar on the soft tire, though comparisons were made difficult with varied fuel loads and because Ferrari sent both its drivers out for long stints at the start of the session before Verstappen undertook his later.

Charles Leclerc was fractionally off the pace, 0.015s further back in third, while Fernando Alonso beat Sergio Perez to fourth spot, the Spaniard 0.649s adrift and beating the Mexican by around 0.2s.

The Mercedes drivers, who were quickest at the end of Friday practice in the rain, were sixth and seventh, with George Russell and Lewis Hamilton closely matched at around 0.9s adrift.

The W13’s deficit was evenly spread throughout the lap, though Hamilton’s best time suggested the car could get close to matching the quickest times in the first sector through the esses.

Traffic was a significant problem through the session, which featured an unusual combination of run plans as teams attempted to fit all three practice sessions into a single hour after Friday was largely washed out.

Russell and Pierre Gasly came closest to a crash, the Mercedes on a fast lap coming close to rear-ending the AlphaTauri travelling slowly at the hairpin.

Wind also proved challenging for several drivers, who reported unexpected snaps of oversteer around the lap among the gusts.

Lando Norris pipped Esteban Ocon to eighth at the head of a close midfield bunch, while Lance Stroll, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas split by less than 0.3s.

Sebastian Vettel was 14th, beating Haas teammates Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher, who were closely matched despite Schumacher missing all of FP2 due to a chassis change following his crash at the end of first practice.

Yuki Tsunoda was 17th for AlphaTauri ahead of Zhou Guanyu, Nicholas Latifi and Pierre Gasly.

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