Japanese GP FP3: Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two

Japanese GP FP3: Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two

Japanese GP FP3: Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two

Red Bull displayed their advantage in the final practice session for the 2024 Japanese GP, Max Verstappen going fastest from Sergio Perez.

The reigning Formula 1 Champion confirmed the early signs that the RB20 is – unsurprisingly – a handy piece of kit around the Suzuka track, as teammate Perez was closely second fastest.

While Ferrari seemed to start off as the second best team, they could not show their pace in the final practice and were quite behind, Carlos Sainz seventh and Charles Leclerc tenth.

Leclerc voiced his frustration with Ferrari’s run plan on his way back to the pits, complaining that he missed two laps worth of qualifying running.

Mercedes seemed to be in good form, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton third and fourth, but can they maintain their speed into qualifying? They have flattered to deceive before.

It was a close session as the top ten were within six tenths of a second, so bring on qualifying.

Buildup towards FP3

The final practice session for the Japanese GP will be a crucial one, with no running done in the rain-hit FP2, meaning the teams will have only this remaining hour to try and set up their cars for qualifying and the race.

The early signs showed that Red Bull are the team to beat with Ferrari chasing, and while FP1 showed McLaren were way off the pace, Mercedes better, not having a proper FP2 meant we couldn’t get a clearer idea about how these two teams stacked up.

Aston Martin with their heavily upgraded AMR24 seemed to remain in their usual place, fifth fastest, but Fernando Alonso will have the upgraded car today, so will one hour be enough for the Spaniard to get it dialed in.

Williams would be relieved that Logan Sargeant’s chassis survived the crash, and the car was re-built with an older spec as the team did not have enough new parts.

All in all, FP3 will be interesting to watch.

FP2 Session Highlights

The session started in clear conditions with track temperature at 25 degrees Celsius with air temperature at 17 degrees.

The teams wasted not time getting out as Verstappen was the first driver to head out on track along with teammate Perez with the Sauber pair also joining. Ferrari and Haas soon followed.

Nico Hulkenberg locked immediately had a lock up, no drama, but that cannot be said about teammate Kevin Magnussen who lost his car at Turn 11 and ended up in the gravel, no damage, just a dirty car and tyres.

Hamilton started his session with Soft tyres, like the Sauber drivers, others were on Mediums even Russell. The Seven-time F1 Champ went to the top of the timing screens.

Verstappen soon reported that the mirrors on his RB20 were vibrating quite a lot while Perez was complaining about the driveability on his car.

Perez then said he was struggling a lot in the low speed complaining about a poor ride being very poor. He was asked to pit. The Mexican stayed out though and reported better driveability on his recent lap, maybe some setting changes on the steering wheel did the trick.

Things were worse over at Williams for Alex Albon who reported he had zero confidence in the car. Sargeant also complained about the rear of this car.

Replay showed that Daniel Ricciardo lost the rear of his VCARB at Turn 2 when he was just starting a flying lap. He ended up spinning onto the grass, but was soon on his way.

Twenty minutes into the session, Hamilton was fastest on Softs, Verstappen second on Mediums, only 0.128s behind the Briton. Just shows the extent of the RB20’s advantage.

Esteban Ocon soon reported that his A524 was bouncing and asked the team to look into it. Verstappen on the other hand reported understeer on his car as replay shows the Dutchman trying to fix some loose tape on his right side mirror.

Replay showed Verstappen going wide on the kerbs at Turn 14, Oscar Piastri soon after doing the same at Turn 9.

As the session entered the final twenty minutes, the teams’ focus remained on the long runs, no real qualifying simulations yet.

Albon soon changed that and sets out on a qualifying run a fresh set of Soft tyres.

Just after going fastest of all, Verstappen reported that the ride of the car has become worse, while replay showed Lando Norris understeering and going wide at Turn 9.

Something is wrong with the Red Bull mirrors, as Perez reported that he keeps “losing his left mirror” just a couple of minutes from the end.

Practice starts ended the session

How they finished

Verstappen took pole at the 2023 Japanese GP with a lap time of 1:28.877, but his fastest time in FP3 was way off that, as he posted a 1:29.563 to go fastest of all.

Perez was 0.269s behind his teammate in second and 0.086s ahead of Russell, third fastest for Mercedes.

Hamilton was fourth fastest in the sister Mercedes, 0.119s slower than his teammate and 0.045s ahead of Alonso, fifth fastest in the Aston Martin.

Alonso was running the upgraded AMR24 in FP3, and his fifth place showed improvement compared to McLaren. Will that be the case in qualifying?

Norris was sixth fastest in the McLaren, 0.574s off the pace and 0.034s ahead of Sainz, seventh in the Ferrari.

Piastri was eighth fastest, 0.055s behind Sainz and 0.115s ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, the Japanese yet again showing good speed and going ninth fastest.

Leclerc was tenth fastest.

Japanese GP FP3 Classification