Suzuka, FP3: Hamilton tops FP3 as Hulkenberg crashes out

Vettel 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd


By Olivier Ferret

6 October 2018 - 06:09
Suzuka, FP3: Hamilton tops FP3 as (...)

Lewis Hamilton made it a clean sweep in practice for the Japanese Grand Prix, taking top spot in FP3 at Suzuka, just over a tenth of a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel, in a session brought to an early end when Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg crashed out.

Hulkenberg, sweeping through the Esses on a qualifying run, took much kerb on a track still damp from an earlier rain show and spun. He went into the barriers on the right-hand side of the track, causing substantial damage to the rear of his car. The session was red-flagged three minutes from time and eventually the clock ran out on any further running leaving Hamilton at the top of the order with a time of 1:29.599, 0.116 ahead of Vettel.

Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkonen led the way in the early part of the session, with his lap of 1:30.054 keeping teammate Vettel at bay by a tenth of a second. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was third, half a second off Räikkönen’s pace, with the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Riccirado fourth and fifth respectively.

As light rain began to fall across Suzuka, Hamilton was left rooted to the bottom of the order thanks to a lock-up at the final chicane that forced him to abandon his second flying lap after he had earlier backed out of his first.

The rainfall then intensified with Vettel reporting that conditions were swiftly worsening in Turns 13 and 14. All drivers returned to the pit lane and there followed a period of quiet as teams waited for conditions to improve.

Bottas broke the silence soon after the half way mark, taking to the track on a set of supersoft tyres. The Finn reported that the track “feels OK, it’s just the kerbs" and the message saw a slew of drivers take to the track to test the conditions.

With the surface rapidly improving the field eventually went for qualifying runs and Vettel quickly eclipsed his team-mate to take top spot with a lap of 1:29.715. Hamilton was running quicker though and after setting a quickest first sector the Briton vaulted from P20 to P1 despite losing time in the middle and final sector.

The moves dropped Räikkönen to third, ahead of Verstappen and Bottas. Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth in the second Red Bull. .

A late quali simulation allowed Racing Point Force India’s Esteban Ocon to maintain the grip he had on P7 in the first two practice sessions and he finished almost four tenths of a second ahead of eighth-placed team-mate Sergio Perez. Renautl’s Carlos Sainz and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10 order.

01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG 1:29.599 13
02 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.715 14
03 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:30.054 13
04 Max Verstappen Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:30.304 13
05 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes AMG 1:30.422 13
06 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Tag Heuer 1:30.474 10
07 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 1:31.088 12
08 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 1:31.483 12
09 Carlos Sainz Renault F1 1:31.513 14
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 1:31.521 13
11 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 1:31.636 14
12 Charles Leclerc Sauber Ferrari 1:31.760 14
13 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso Honda 1:32.030 13
14 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 1:32.201 14
15 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 1:32.224 12
16 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 1:32.442 10
17 Fernando Alonso McLaren Renault 1:32.608 14
18 Sergey Sirotkin Williams Mercedes 1:32.631 14
19 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Renault 1:33.034 13
20 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Honda 1:33.105 10

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