Verstappen fourth in final free practice Suzuka

Published on 06 October 2018 by Mike Motilall

Max Verstappen came in fourth fastest at the final free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. In a session dominated by the weather conditions, it took the Dutchman thirteen laps to do a 1:30.304, his fastest. Lewis Hamilton was the quickest, albeit that the gap to Sebastian Vettel, who was second, is not much bigger than a tenth of a second.

There is quite some wind on the 5,807 kilometer long circuit in Suzuka when the final free practice gets underway. Renault running Nico Hülkenberg is the first one to get out on track and also the first one to get a timed lap. In the following minutes, traffic starts building up on track.

Max Verstappen is almost immediately out on track and does a 1:31.439 in his first lap, well enough for fifth at that moment. The Dutchman betters his time not much later to a 1:30.756. The top six is then formed by Kimi Raikkonen (1:30.054), Sebastian Vettel (+0.107), Valtteri Bottas (+0.510), Max Verstappen (+0.702), Daniel Ricciardo (+0.962) and Charles Leclerc (+1.706). The first three drivers, however, have done their laps on the super-soft compound tyre as oppose to Verstappen who had the softs strapped on to his RB14.

Apart from the wind, the rain is also threatening. Not even ten minutes have gone by when Kimi Raikkonen reports on the radio that there are some drops. Although the amount of rain seems to be less than expected, all the drivers head back to the pits. As busy as it was during the opening stages of this practice session, as quiet it has now become.

With about half an hour to go, Valtteri Bottas is the first one to break the silence and leave the pitlane. Slowly but surely the sun also starts shining. The majority of the field, including Max Verstappen, wastes no time and get back out on track in a hurry.

Despite the fact that the conditions are improving, the rather technical Suzuka circuit remains tricky. Kimi Raikkonen briefly makes an off course excursion in the gravel trap and team mate Sebastian Vettel was forced to abort a hot lap as went too wide in Degner 2.

With ten minutes remaining on the clock, we start witnessing the first few improvements in lap times. Lewis Hamilton takes over the lead from Sebastian Vettel with a 1:29.599 on the super-softs. He takes over P2 with a little over a tenth. Even Verstappen betters his lap time on a new set of the super-softs to a 1:30.304, which puts him fourth.

After an almost trouble free final practice, the session is suddenly ended with well over two minutes to go. Nico Hülkenberg loses control of his Renault in the S’s and hits the tyre wall. Although the German driver walks away unscathed, his action triggers a code red. Due to the lack of time, all the drivers head back to the pits. Max Verstappen finishes this session in fourth, seven tenths astray from Lewis Hamilton.

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Results third free practice Japan:

1Lewis HamiltonHAMMercedes1:29.599 13
2Sebastian VettelVETFerrari1:29.715+0.116s14
3Kimi RäikkönenRAIFerrari1:30.054+0.455s13
4Max VerstappenVERRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:30.304+0.705s13
5Valteri BottasBOTMercedes1:30.422+0.823s13
6Daniel RicciardoRICRed Bull Racing TAG Heuer1:30.474+0.875s10
7Esteban OconOCOForce India Mercedes1:31.088+1.489s12
8Sergio PerezPERForce India Mercedes1:31.483+1.884s12
9Carlos SainzSAIRenault1:31.513+1.914s14
10Kevin MagnussenMAGHaas Ferrari1:31.521+1.922s13
11Romain GrosjeanGROHaas Ferrari1:31.636+2.037s14
12Charles LeclercLECSauber Ferrari1:31.760+2.161s14
13Brendon HartleyHARScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:32.030+2.431s13
14Lance StrollSTRWilliams Mercedes1:32.201+2.602s14
15Nico HulkenbergHULRenault1:32.224+2.625s12
16Marcus EricssonERISauber Ferrari1:32.442+2.843s10
17Fernando AlonsoALOMcLaren Renault1:32.608+3.009s14
18Sergey SirotkinSIRWilliams Mercedes1:32.631+3.032s14
19Stoffel VandoorneVANMcLaren Renault1:33.034+3.435s13
20Pierre GaslyGASScuderia Toro Rosso Honda1:33.105+3.506s10