Practice report

F1 Japanese GP: Verstappen on top again from Norris and Piastri

Max Verstappen ended the final Formula 1 practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix on top, as McLaren duo Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri were within three tenths.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

A slow-burning session, which featured no track action for the opening five minutes, ended with a series of qualifying simulations in which Verstappen set a 1m30.267s lap to eclipse the two McLarens - which had found performance relative to the Red Bull driver overnight.

Verstappen had headed the field after the first set of soft-tyre runs, logging a 1m30.960s - slower than the previous day's headline effort as overnight rain had washed away some of the rubber on the track surface.

There was little running until the final 20 minutes, other than a smattering of longer runs from the Ferraris to assess the degradation further on the now-used tyres from the first run.

But with a third of the session's run-time left, many of the drivers dipped into another set of fresh softs in preparation for qualifying.

Oscar Piastri prised Verstappen off the top of the pile by 0.4s as the McLarens showed their hand, and was in turn beaten by Norris who set a 1m30.507s.

Verstappen could not better Norris's opening sector time, but found an advantage in the following splits over the Briton to move up to the front by 0.240s.

Persistent high levels of degradation ensured that any follow-up laps were slower as the best of the soft tyres had already been used, cementing the session in favour of the Dutchman - who topped all three practice sessions at Suzuka.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Sergio Perez's later lap put him fourth, but almost half a second adrift of the top three having continued to lose time in the opening two sectors compared to Verstappen.

Ferrari pair Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz had to endure their arrears to Verstappen over Friday being extended as they were 0.755s and 0.870s behind the championship leader respectively.

The two were first onto the road at the start of the session, and continued to run a little longer on each set of softs to explore the circuit - Sainz suffering a snap between the Degners during one of his exploratory laps and narrowly avoided the gravel.

Lewis Hamilton appeared to be marginally happier in his Mercedes after a difficult Friday, albeit 0.892s off the pace, as he outpaced team-mate George Russell - who had his running limited by a "damaged right-rear wheel shield".

Fernando Alonso was ninth fastest as his Aston Martin looked to be a handful out on the circuit, finishing the session just over a tenth up on Zhou Guanyu.

The Chinese driver outpaced team-mate Valtteri Bottas by 0.031s as Alfa Romeo continued to deliver on its solid pace shown on Friday.

Despite a contretemps with home favourite Yuki Tsunoda, Kevin Magnussen was 12th fastest - the Dane did not get out of the way in the Esses as quickly as Tsunoda would have liked, as the Japanese driver delivered a typically irate radio message in his direction.

Esteban Ocon was the quickest of the Alpines in 13th, ahead of Tsunoda - who only did a soft tyre run at the end having spent the early part of the session running on mediums, as did team-mate Liam Lawson.

Alpine got Pierre Gasly's car fixed after his Degner 2 shunt in FP2, but the Frenchman could only prop up the order in the final practice session.

F1 Japanese GP - FP3 results

Driver Info
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull 12 1'30.267   231.592
2 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes 16 +0.240 0.240 230.978
3 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 15 +0.288 0.048 230.856
4 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull 12 +0.737 0.449 229.717
5 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari 20 +0.755 0.018 229.671
6 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari 20 +0.870 0.115 229.382
7 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes 13 +0.892 0.022 229.326
8 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 9 +1.238 0.346 228.459
9 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes 16 +1.282 0.044 228.349
10 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 15 +1.401 0.119 228.053
11 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 15 +1.432 0.031 227.976
12 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari 16 +1.613 0.181 227.527
13 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault 13 +1.657 0.044 227.418
14 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull 18 +1.684 0.027 227.351
15 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari 13 +1.712 0.028 227.282
16 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes 13 +1.735 0.023 227.225
17 New Zealand L. Lawson AlphaTauri 40 AlphaTauri Red Bull 18 +1.781 0.046 227.111
18 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes 12 +1.846 0.065 226.951
19 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes 19 +1.887 0.041 226.850
20 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault 15 +1.932 0.045 226.739
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