Max Verstappen set the pace in the final practice session at the Japanese Grand Prix as dry conditions prevailed.
As Verstappen looks to claim pole later on today, he set himself up perfectly in that mission by topping FP3 with a buffer of three-tenths over the fastest Ferrari, that being Carlos Sainz.
Fernando Alonso established himself as ‘best of the rest’, leaving Mercedes with work to do come qualifying.
Unsurprisinginly the track was busy from the start as drivers scrambled to get laps under their belt in the dry conditions, a mix of tyre compounds and programmes run.
Verstappen was setting the early pace on the soft rubber, clocking a 1:35.050, with drivers quickly into race simulations from there.
Sainz exclaimed “oh thank you Charles” as he locked up at the final chicane, believing his team-mate ahead had hampered him. It was hard to see what Leclerc had done wrong.
As Mercedes swapped to soft tyres it was Russell who split the Red Bulls, dumping Perez down a spot, while Hamilton settled into P4. Still Verstappen led the way by over nine-tenths.
Alpine opened some eyes when they went P2 and P3 as the session reached halfway, Alonso ahead of Ocon with both on medium tyres, before Ferrari flexed their muscles as Sainz smashed Verstappen’s time by over a second, Leclerc slotting into P2 with four-tenths to find.
As Verstappen returned to P2, now running the medium rubber and with three-tenths to find on Sainz, the Dutchman had delivered a warning of the strong one-lap pace within that RB18. Mercedes were half a second off the pace after their latest push on the softs.
Ferrari bolted on new soft tyres, Leclerc finding improvement, but it was Verstappen back on top when he returned to that compound and moved three-tenths clear of Sainz.
1 Max VERSTAPPEN Red Bull Racing1:30.671
2 Carlos SAINZ Ferrari+0.294
3 Charles LECLERC Ferrari+0.309
4 Fernando ALONSO Alpine+0.649
5 Sergio PEREZ Red Bull Racing+0.843
6 George RUSSELL Mercedes+0.859
7 Lewis HAMILTON Mercedes+0.918
8 Lando NORRIS McLaren+1.076
9 Esteban OCON Alpine+1.079
10 Lance STROLL Aston Martin+1.167
11 Daniel RICCIARDO McLaren+1.189
12 Alexander ALBON Williams+1.275
13 Valtteri BOTTAS Alfa Romeo+1.300
14 Sebastian VETTEL Aston Martin+1.551
15 Kevin MAGNUSSEN Haas F1 Team+1.619
16 Mick SCHUMACHER Haas F1 Team+1.695
17 Yuki TSUNODA AlphaTauri+1.706
18 Guanyu ZHOU Alfa Romeo+1.714
19 Nicholas LATIFI Williams+2.197
20 Pierre GASLY AlphaTauri+2.210