Valtteri Bottas topped the timesheets in FP3 for the Japanese GP as practice was once again interrupted, first by the Mercedes driver and then Kimi Raikkonen.
After early morning drizzle, Saturday’s final practice for the Japanese Grand Prix began on a dry track that sported just a few damp patches.
Mercedes were immediately on the pace with Lewis Hamilton’s very first lap on the soft tyres into the 1:29s. Valtteri Bottas challenged him for P1 with his 1:29.055 coming in 0.014s up on Hamilton’s best.
However, going for a second hot lap – and a quicker one – Bottas brought out the red flags when he kicked up AstroTurf at the exit of Spoon Curve, went through the grass and brushed the barrier. That damaged the AstroTurf, his rear right tyre, the side of his W08 and the floor. His session was over.
Practice resumed for all of three minutes as Kimi Raikkonen added his name to the list of crashes. While earlier in the session Sebastian Vettel had a big moment at the second Degner and went through the gravel, he was able to catch the car and prevent it hitting the barriers. Raikkonen couldn’t. Game over.
FP3 resumed again with a few supersoft runs but with most of the drivers having taken rubber off the tyres when their laps were aborted in the stoppages, Bottas and Hamilton held onto the 1-2 through to the chequered flag – their best times set on the soft tyres.
Vettel finished third, his best set on the supersofts but still 0.324s down, while Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were next in line. They were the last two drivers to get within a second of Bottas’s best.
Esteban Ocon was sixth fastest ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez and Jolyon Palmer.
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:29.055
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.069 0.014
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.379 0.324
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29.910 0.855
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 1:30.018 0.963
6 Esteban Ocon Force India 1:30.109 1.054
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Sport 1:30.315 1.260
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:30.424 1.369
9 Sergio Perez Force India 1:30.563 1.508
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault Sport 1:30.764 1.709
11 Felipe Massa Williams 1:30.764 1.709
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:30.770 1.715
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 1:30.799 1.744
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1:30.982 1.927
15 Lance Stroll Williams 1:31.011 1.956
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:31.353 2.298
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 1:31.459 2.404
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:32.579 3.524
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:32.698 3.643
20 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1:33.962 4.907