F1 Drivers’ World Championship leader Max Verstappen topped the final practice ahead of qualifying for the 2022 FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix beating Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz by almost three tenths of a second in the first dry practice session of the sport’s return to Suzuka.
After heavy rain on Friday led to two sessions run on full wet or intermediate tyres, Saturday presented teams with more favourable conditions and led to a bust final hour as driver attempted to get a read on the C1-C3 slick tyres on offer in Suzuka.
Mercedes’ George Russell posted the first lap time of the hour, crossing the line in 1:37.969 before Sainz bypassed that by more than two seconds. Five minutes into the session Verstappen appeared on softs and he dropped the benchmark to 1:32.050 to sit 1.186s clear of team-mate Sergio Pérez who had also joined the fray. McLaren’s Lando Norris then slotted into third place just ahead of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo.
Verstappen held top spot through the hallway mark and the period in which many drivers began to switch to soft tyres. Sainz jumped to the top of the timesheet, some 1.085s ahead of the Dutchman thanks to a lap of 1:30.965 on the red-banded tyres. the Spaniard’s team-mate then took second place with a lap of 1:31.388.
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso improved to fourth on medium tyres, just behind Verstappen’s early soft tyre lap. Esteban Ocon in the second Alpine slotted into fifth on the same tyre.
Verstappen then returned the action, this time on medium tyres, and he demonstrated the superior pace of the Red Bull by jumping to P2, 0.351 off Sainz on the less grippy tyres.
In the final ten minutes the session, with new softs for most, improvements came thick and fast. Leclerc used moved back to second, crossing the line just 0.015 off Sainz’s existing pace. Sainz then went for his qualifying simulation but couldn’t improve.
That left the door open for Verstappen and with purple times in all three sectors he jumped back to first place courtesy of a lap of 1:30.671s, 0.294 ahead of Sainz and just over three tenths clear of Leclerc.
Alonso ended the session in fourth ahead of Pérez, who finished the session 0.843s slower than his team-mate. Russell finished sixth ahead of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton while Norris finished in eighth place ahead of Ocon and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll whjo completed the top 10.
Further back last place went to Pierre Gasly, who earlier in the morning had been announced as an Alpine driver for 2023 alongside Ocon. The Frenchman will be replaced at AlphaTauri by Nyck de Vries.
2022 FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1:30.671 22 230.561
2 Carlos Sainz Ferrari 1:30.965 0.294 27 229.815
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:30.980 0.309 27 229.777
4 Fernando Alonso Alpine/Renault 1:31.320 0.649 20 228.922
5 Sergio Pérez Red Bull 1:31.514 0.843 25 228.437
6 George Russell Mercedes 1:31.530 0.859 28 228.397
7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:31.589 0.918 25 228.250
8 Lando Norris McLaren/Mercedes 1:31.747 1.076 27 227.857
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine/Renault 1:31.750 1.079 22 227.849
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:31.838 1.167 25 227.631
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren/Mercedes 1:31.860 1.189 28 227.576
12 Alexander Albon Williams/Mercedes 1:31.946 1.275 26 227.363
13 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:31.971 1.300 24 227.302
14 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin/Mercedes 1:32.222 1.551 25 226.683
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1:32.290 1.619 23 226.516
16 Mick Schumacher Haas/Ferrari 1:32.366 1.695 24 226.330
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1:32.377 1.706 26 226.303
18 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1:32.385 1.714 24 226.283
19 Nicholas Latifi Williams/Mercedes 1:32.868 2.197 26 225.106
20 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri/Red Bull 1:32.881 2.210 24 225.075