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Formula 1

Red Bull supremacy? Everything that happened in Suzuka FP3

by Edd Straw
3 min read

Max Verstappen underlined his status as favourite for pole position for the Japanese Grand Prix by topping FP3, with team-mate Sergio Perez backing up Red Bull’s supremacy in second place.

Verstappen was second fastest for much of the session after Red Bull opted for medium Pirellis on both cars for its first set of runs. At that stage, he was 0.128s slower than soft-shod Lewis Hamilton before the timesheets were shaken up by qualifying simulations.

But once he bolted on the softs, Verstappen banged in a lap of 1m29.563s on his first flier to knock Hamilton off top spot, with Perez slotting into second with a lap 0.269s slower about a minute later.

However, it wasn’t plain sailing for Red Bull as both drivers complained about ride problems and wing mirror troubles during the session.

Mercedes carried over its encouraging Friday practice form with George Russell setting the third-fastest time, 0.355s off Verstappen, backed up by Hamilton just over a tenth slower in fourth.

George Russell, Mercedes, Japanese Grand Prix

Russell was slowest heading into the qualifying simulations but once on softs he jumped ahead of his team-mate, with Hamilton only improving on his earlier pace by 0.028s after losing time in the first sector.

With the focus on improving the tyre prep and balancing up the temperatures on the front and rear axle, Mercedes appears to have made genuine progress - albeit with the lingering fear that once again its performance could drop off in qualifying.

Fernando Alonso took fifth place after his Aston Martin crew broke the curfew overnight to upgrade his AMR24 by fitting the revised floor and bodywork that Lance stroll trialled on Friday. He was half-a-second off Red Bull.

Lando Norris, McLaren, Japanese Grand Prix

Just as in FP1, McLaren’s pace was shrouded with Lando Norris setting the sixth-fastest time on his second push lap on softs late on. That was thanks to abandoning his first flier after running wide at the exit of Degner 2 having set the fastest first sector time of the session.

He ended up almost six tenths down, while team-mate Oscar Piastri was just under a tenth further back with his McLaren looking lairy in the esses at times.

Ferrari didn’t show the anticipated pace, with Carlos Sainz seventh, six tenths down, and Charles Leclerc 10th. Ferrari opted to complete its qualifying simulations slightly later than most rivals, leading to complaints about the run timing from Leclerc, who was unable to put in a second push lap.

RB driver Yuki Tsunoda was again the one interloper amid the supremacy of the top five teams, ending up ninth-fastest and just under eight tenths off the pace. That put him just over three tenths faster than team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who had a spin early in the session at Turn 2.

Alex Albon complained about having “zero confidence in the car” early on but ended up 11th fastest and within a second of the pace. Team-mate Logan Sargeant, running a mix-and-match aerodynamic package after Friday's crash and without a flying lap to his name a day earlier, was down in 19th.

Valtteri Bottas led the line for Sauber in 12th, with Esteban Ocon the top Alpine in 14th and Haas ending up slowest of the teams with Nico Hulkenberg down in 16th place. Team-mate Kevin Magnussen had a trip into the gravel at the hairpin in the fourth minute for the session, but rejoined and ended up slowest.

Japanese Grand Prix FP3 times, with Max Verstappen fastest from Sergio Perez
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