Japanese GP: Max Verstappen hits the front in FP3 despite ‘lot worse’ complaint

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen in his RB20 with his steering wheel

Max Verstappen in his RB20 with his steering wheel

Max Verstappen may not have been happy with his “ride” late in FP3 but that didn’t stop the reigning World Champion from clocking the fastest time to lead a Red Bull 1-2.

The Dutchman clocked a 1:29.563 to finish 0.2s ahead of Sergio Perez with George Russell up into third place.

Max Verstappen leads Red Bull 1-2 ahead of qualifying

All eyes were on the Williams garage ahead of FP3 with team boss James Vowles revealing Logan Sargeant’s FW46 had been repaired, and that it was the same specification as Alex Albon’s barring the loss of the upgraded front wing endplates.

Meanwhile, Aston Martin confirmed that following back-to-back comparison tests on Friday, overnight the team had fitted their Suzuka upgrades to Fernando Alonso’s car with the Spaniard and Lance Stroll on the same spec from FP3 onwards.

Having lost FP2 to the rain on Friday, the drivers were quickly into the action on Saturday with Max Verstappen the first driver out ahead of Stake team-mates and Sergio Perez. One driver who wasn’t in a rush was Lando Norris as he made his way to the McLaren garage after the green light, signing autographs along the way.

Verstappen laid down a 1:30.265 as Kevin Magnussen went spinning into the grass at the hairpin, Perez up to second ahead of Charles Leclerc. The trio, all on medium tyres, dropped one place as Lewis Hamilton, out on the softs, went quickest with a 1:30.0.

Running a different programme to his team-mate, George Russell was at the other end of the timesheet down in 20th place as he focused on long-run pace on the mediums.

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Daniel Ricciardo joined the list of spinners before moving up to 12th on his next lap, the RB driver three-tenths down on his team-mate Yuki Tsunoda.

The McLarens split the Red Bulls with Lando Norris third and a tenth up on Oscar Piastriin fourth, and Alonso on the hard tyres sat P9 as he ran the new aero package for the first time.

But making the traditional swap to the soft tyres for their qualifying simulations in the final 15 minutes of the session, it was all-change on the timesheet.

Alex Albon was the first out and shaved almost two seconds off his previous best time, an indication of the improvements that could be made. Russell went from slowest of all to P1 with a 1:29.9.

He, though, wasn’t there for long with Verstappen going three-tenths quicker. And yet he reported that he wasn’t happy with his car. “The ride of the car is suddenly a lot worse,” he told Red Bull. Perez slotted into second place.

Russell led a Mercedes 3-4 as he finished a tenth up on Hamilton with Alonso fifth fastest for Aston Martin.


1 Max VERSTAPPEN 1:29.563
2 Sergio PEREZ +0.269
3 George RUSSELL +0.355
4 Lewis HAMILTON +0.474
5 Fernando ALONSO +0.519
6 Lando NORRIS +0.574
7 Carlos SAINZ +0.608
8 Oscar PIASTRI +0.663
9 Yuki TSUNODA +0.778
10 Charles LECLERC +0.820
11 Alexander ALBON +0.970
12 Valtteri BOTTAS +0.983
13 Daniel RICCIARDO +1.119
14 Esteban OCON +1.459
15 Guanyu ZHOU +1.504
16 Nico HULKENBERG +1.576
17 Pierre GASLY +1.578
18 Lance STROLL +1.779
19 Logan SARGEANT +1.889
20 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +1.899

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