Valtteri Bottas tops the final practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas posts the fastest lap around Suzuka in the final practice session, despite a crash that later ruled the Finn out after twenty minutes. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen then took the restart and crashed himself at Degner 2 to rule both Finn’s out of the session, while the Scuderia lacked the pace to match the race-focused Mercedes.
After 12-minutes of the final 60-minute session for the Japanese Grand Prix, both Mercedes men had posted flying laps on Pirelli’s soft compound tyre – the middle of the three available for the weekend.
Initially of which, Bottas moved top on a 1:29.529 to edge Hamilton by two-tenths. Before the Briton responded to move ahead himself by nearly half a second.
Soon, however, Valtteri responded with a faster lap of his own to put his Silver Arrow into P1 and edge a 1:28 lap time. Moments before crawling back to the pits to end his session one-third of the way through.
Bottas had drifted wide as he exited Spoon and was caught on the damp astroturf, pulling him further off track and onto the grass. Hitting the barrier with his rear-right tyre, before the car flicked at the front to damage the front wing along with his suspension.
WIth the astroturf being pulled up and pieces of Mercedes sat on track, the red flags halted the session for eight minutes in all. Though only returning to green flag conditions for a further five minutes before Raikkonen found the barrier at Degner 2.
Kimi had matched his team-mate, Sebastian Vettel, in suffering from understeer through the first of the two Degner right-handers. Then matched his German stable-mate again in suffering from oversteer through the second bend that marks the start of sector two.
But while Vettel merely drifted wide onto the exit kerb, Kimi’s oversteer moment sent the car into the barrier and breaking the Finn’s front left suspension. Halting the flying lap runs being carried out by the two Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s.
Once green again, Vettel returned to post a flying lap that moved the remaining Ferrari into third place albeit three-tenths down and on the softer compound tyre. While Red Bull’s Verstappen came home in fourth a further half-second behind.
Valtteri’s damage will come at a further cost to the Finn, too, having already been forced into a five-place grid penalty for an out-of-schedule gearbox change.
The two Spaniards of McLaren-Honda’s Fernando Alonso and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz also carry grid penalties into qualifying that should ensure the duo lock out the back row of the grid.
With Fernando taking yet another power unit change at what is Honda’s home round, after a hydraulics issue in the ICE saw McLaren’s mechanics break the night curfew for the second time this season. The last before they will take a penalty.
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||TAG||15||1’29.910||0.855|
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||TAG||13||1’30.018||0.963|
|6||Esteban Ocon||Force India||Mercedes||12||1’30.109||1.054|
|9||Sergio Perez||Force India||Mercedes||12||1’30.563||1.508|
|13||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Toro Rosso||Renault||23||1’30.799||1.744|
|16||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||Renault||25||1’31.353||2.298|