Japanese GP: Max Verstappen leads Red Bull one-two in final practice as Mercedes maintain improvement | F1 News

Max Verstappen established himself as favourite for Japanese Grand Prix qualifying by leading a one-two from Red Bull team-mate Sergio Perez in final practice at Suzuka.

Having had his nine-race winning streak ended in Australia last time out, Verstappen continued what looks set to be a strong response from Red Bull as his time of 1:29.563 put him 0.269s clear of Perez.

Mercedes continued to show promise as George Russell claimed third ahead of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with the Silver Arrows looking to bounce back from a dismal start to the season.

Fernando Alonso was fifth for Aston Martin ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris, who delivered a rapid first sector before making a mistake that left mystery over how close the Brit could have got to Verstappen’s leading time.

Having ended Verstappen’s streak in Australia, Carlos Sainz was only seventh as Ferrari failed to make an impression during the qualifying simulations.

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RB’s Daniel Ricciardo loses the rear of his car and spins into the grass during FP3 at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Despite having showed impressive long-run pace earlier in the session, Sainz’s team-mate Charles Leclerc could only manage 10th, and expressed frustration over team radio at being given a lack of time to complete his fast runs at the end of the session.

Oscar Piastri was eighth for McLaren, while Yuki Tsunoda continued his strong start to the season by taking ninth at his home circuit. The Japanese driver’s strong display saw him once more comfortably outperform his under pressure RB team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who spun off before finishing 13th.

With Red Bull having also claimed a one-two in first practice before rain almost completely washed out Friday’s second session, Verstappen goes into qualifying, live on Sky Sports F1 at 7am, as the driver to beat.

While the timesheet will be of comfort for world championship leader Verstappen, the Dutchman did not seem completely happy with the handling of his upgraded RB20 as he complained of understeer during the session.

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Watch the best moments during Friday’s practice one and two from day one of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s deficit to Red Bull, with Sainz sixth tenths off the pace and Leclerc a further two tenths back, suggested that the Italian squad may not yet have shown their true pace.

“I think they might be hiding a little bit of performance in this latter part of FP3,” Sky Sports F1’s Anthony Davidson said.

Having experienced an extreme low in Melbourne as a lack of pace was compounded by a double DNF, Mercedes are managing to get their car into a more favourable operating window, perhaps aided by the cool Spring conditions in Suzuka.

The Silver Arrows have shown glimpses of speed at each of the opening three races before falling away when it has mattered most, leaving Saturday’s qualifying as the crucial test as to whether genuine progress has been made.

Japanese GP Practice Three Timesheet

Driver Team Time
1) Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:29.563
2) Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.269
3) George Russell Mercedes +0.355
4) Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.474
5) Fernando Alonso Aston Martin +0.519
6) Lando Norris McLaren +0.574
7) Carlos Sainz Ferrari +0.608
8) Oscar Piastri McLaren +0.663
9) Yuki Tsunoda RB +0.778
10) Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.820
11) Alex Albon Williams +0.970
12) Valtteri Bottas Sauber +0.983
13) Daniel Ricciardo RB +1.119
14) Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.459
15) Zhou Guanyu Sauber +1.504
16) Nico Hulkenberg Haas +1.576
17) Pierre Gasly Alpine +1.578
18) Lance Stroll Aston Martin +1.779
19) Logan Sargeant Williams +1.889
20) Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.899

Sky Sports F1’s live Japanese GP schedule

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Look back on some of the most exciting title deciders to take place at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Sunday April 7
5am: Grand Prix Sunday Japanese GP build-up*
8am: Chequered Flag: Japanese GP reaction*
9am: Ted’s Notebook*
9.30am: Japanese Grand Prix highlights*
10.30am: Japanese Grand Prix replay

*also live on Sky Sports Main Event

Formula 1’s biggest ever season continues with the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, live on Sky Sports F1 and Sky Sports Main Event with lights out at 6am. Stream every F1 race and more with a NOW Sports Month Membership – No contract, cancel anytime

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