Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2023

Verstappen fastest again in final practice ahead of McLaren duo

Formula 1

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Max Verstappen completed a hat-trick of fastest practice times by setting the best lap in the final practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The championship leader’s best time of a 1’30.267 was two tenths quicker than the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri. Sergio Perez was fourth-fastest in the second Red Bull, but seven tenths of a second behind his team mate.

After overcast skies during for both of Friday’s sessions, the sun was out for the third and final hour of practice on Saturday morning. Although the ambient temperature was identical to the opening two sessions, the track was notably warmer as a result of the additional solar energy.

When the pit lane opened, teams were in no rush to take to the track. It took over five minutes for the first cars to take to the track, the two Ferraris of Carlos Sainz Jnr and Charles Leclerc heading out one after the other. Both on the soft tyres, Sainz set the opening time of the day with a 1’32.001, but Leclerc beat his team mate’s first effort by 0.038s.

More cars began to venturing out, including McLaren drivers Norris and Piastri. Norris went comfortably quicker than the Ferraris to move into first place by over seven tenths with a 1’31.174, with Piastri just ahead of the Ferraris in second, both on the soft tyres.

The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were next on the track with the pair of them splitting the two McLaren drivers near the top of the times. But then Friday pace-setter Verstappen emerged from the garage and immediately pumped in a 1’30.960 to jump to the very top of the field with a lap three tenths slower than his best from Friday.

Rather than push on to gather more data over multiple laps, most of those near the top of the order opted to carry out a second qualifying simulation run on the same set of soft tyres, including Verstappen. However, none could find time on their second timed laps.

Eventually the McLaren pair returned to the circuit on a fresh set of soft tyres. With new rubber, both beat Verstappen’s best time as Norris set a new quickest time of the weekend with a 1’30.507, Piastri almost matching his team mate to go second. Almost as if to respond, Verstappen fitted fresh softs and headed out on track. His next push lap saw Verstappen retake the top spot from the McLaren pair, lowering the best time to a 1’30.267.

That would ultimately prove the best time of the session as there were no further improvements in the final ten minutes, bar Perez who moved up to fourth place in the second Red Bull. At the chequered flag, Verstappen completed his run of setting the fastest time in all three practice sessions, with his best time two tenths quicker than the two McLarens of Norris and Piastri.

Perez was fourth-fastest ahead of the two Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz, with the Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell behind in seventh and eighth. Fernando Alonso was ninth for Aston Martin, with the two Alfa Romeo drivers Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas in tenth and 11th.

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2023 Japanese Grand Prix third practice result

Position Number Driver Team Model Time Gap Laps
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB19 1’30.267 12
2 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’30.507 0.240 15
3 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes MCL60 1’30.555 0.288 14
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT RB19 1’31.004 0.737 12
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari SF-23 1’31.022 0.755 19
6 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari SF-23 1’31.137 0.870 19
7 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes W14 1’31.159 0.892 12
8 63 George Russell Mercedes W14 1’31.505 1.238 9
9 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’31.549 1.282 15
10 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’31.668 1.401 14
11 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari C43 1’31.699 1.432 15
12 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’31.880 1.613 15
13 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault A523 1’31.924 1.657 13
14 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT AT04 1’31.951 1.684 17
15 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari VF-23 1’31.979 1.712 12
16 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’32.002 1.735 12
17 40 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT AT04 1’32.048 1.781 18
18 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes FW45 1’32.113 1.846 12
19 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes AMR23 1’32.154 1.887 19
20 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault A523 1’32.199 1.932 14

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2023 Japanese Grand Prix combined practice times

Position Number Driver Team FP1 time FP2 time FP3 time Gap Laps
1 1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’31.647 1’30.688 1’30.267 1
2 4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’32.392 1’31.152 1’30.507 0.240 3
3 81 Oscar Piastri McLaren-Mercedes 1’32.713 1’31.662 1’30.555 0.288 8
4 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda RBPT 1’33.043 1’31.710 1’31.004 0.737 9
5 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’32.574 1’31.008 1’31.022 0.741 2
6 55 Carlos Sainz Jnr Ferrari 1’32.273 1’31.237 1’31.137 0.870 4
7 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’33.699 1’31.829 1’31.159 0.892 14
8 63 George Russell Mercedes 1’33.310 1’31.328 1’31.505 1.061 5
9 14 Fernando Alonso Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’32.650 1’31.492 1’31.549 1.225 6
10 23 Alexander Albon Williams-Mercedes 1’32.991 1’31.555 1’32.113 1.288 7
11 24 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’34.831 1’32.165 1’31.668 1.401 16
12 77 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’33.860 1’31.739 1’31.699 1.432 10
13 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’33.040 1’31.771 1’32.154 1.504 11
14 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1’33.516 1’31.794 1’31.924 1.527 12
15 27 Nico Hulkenberg Haas-Ferrari 1’33.448 1’31.797 1’31.979 1.530 13
16 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas-Ferrari 1’33.975 1’32.169 1’31.880 1.613 17
17 22 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’32.597 1’32.178 1’31.951 1.684 18
18 2 Logan Sargeant Williams-Mercedes 1’34.212 1’32.320 1’32.002 1.735 20
19 40 Liam Lawson AlphaTauri-Honda RBPT 1’33.005 1’32.141 1’32.048 1.781 15
20 10 Pierre Gasly Alpine-Renault 1’33.129 1’32.179 1’32.199 1.912 19

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2023 Japanese Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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