Suzuka, FP3: Hamilton tops FP3 as Hulkenberg crashes out
Vettel 2nd, Raikkonen 3rd
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|
|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|