Japanese GP | Rosberg sets the pace in FP3

Nico Rosberg remains on top at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Three from three at the Japanese Grand Prix as Nico Rosberg goes top in final Suzuka practice. Hamilton may not have posted a soft tyre flyer in the final stages, but Rosberg completes a practice clean sweep as Renault end the hour in the top 10.

Nico Rosberg flew in Friday practice to top both practice sessions ahead of his Mercedes team-mate. With Hamilton reducing the deficit across the sessions to end FP2 marginally down on the championship leader.

Come Saturday, however, and Rosberg re-opened his lead on his team-mate, setting the fastest turbo-hybrid lap ever seen at Suzuka. With qualifying still to come.

Rosberg’s best time of the day came on the soft tyres, as he posted a 1:32.092 to improve on his previous benchmark by over a second.

In the early stages of FP3, Rosberg found himself just five-hundredths of a second ahead of Hamilton. As Lewis set the fastest times in sectors one and three, but the time lost in the middle sector cost Hamilton the chance of lapping faster.

Medium tyre runs also saw Raikkonen leading the Red Bulls and Vettel. With Sebastian ending his run a second down on the pace-setting Nico.

Soft tyres, meanwhile, saw Vettel’s gap to the front reduce to six-tenths of a second as Verstappen tucked in six-hundredths of a second behind.

Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, was taking the fight to Rosberg. Crossing the line three-tenths down on the Mercedes, as Hamilton abandoned his soft tyre flyer.

Kimi Raikkonen, too, was unable to post a competitive soft tyre time. With the Finn feeling he was held up by traffic. Complaining “that ******* Renault was in the middle of the road”.

Renault coincidentally ended practice in 8th and 9th place, as the pair set identical lap times to end the hour only behind the top three teams and Felipe Massa.

Jolyon Palmer was also the first out of the pits when the session went green. But early running saw little on-track action after overnight rain left parts of the track damp – like in the Esses as reported via team radio by Vettel.

Jenson Button then became the first driver to try medium tyres ten minutes into the session. Before Alonso posted the first time of the day with a 1:35.93.

While Carlos Sainz ended the hour 24-seconds off the pace, with an electrical issue hampering the Toro Rosso’s session. And Pascal Wehrlein will take a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.

Pos. Driver Best lap Gap Laps
1 Nico Rosberg 1’32.092 14
2 Daniel Ricciardo 1’32.394 0.302 10
3 Sebastian Vettel 1’32.731 0.639 13
4 Max Verstappen 1’32.784 0.692 9
5 Kimi Raikkonen 1’33.011 0.919 12
6 Felipe Massa 1’33.271 1.179 13
7 Lewis Hamilton 1’33.284 1.192 12
8 Jolyon Palmer 1’33.639 1.547 13
9 Kevin Magnussen 1’33.639 1.547 10
10 Nico Hulkenberg 1’33.646 1.554 11
11 Fernando Alonso 1’33.714 1.622 12
12 Esteban Gutierrez 1’33.787 1.695 16
13 Valtteri Bottas 1’33.865 1.773 9
14 Sergio Perez 1’33.921 1.829 11
15 Daniil Kvyat 1’34.037 1.945 12
16 Romain Grosjean 1’34.272 2.18 13
17 Felipe Nasr 1’34.388 2.296 12
18 Marcus Ericsson 1’34.544 2.452 13
19 Jenson Button 1’34.548 2.456 11
20 Esteban Ocon 1’35.230 3.138 13
21 Pascal Wehrlein 1’37.256 5.164 10
22 Carlos Sainz Jnr 1’56.323 24.231 3