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

11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’30.26712
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’30.5070.24015
381Oscar PiastriMcLaren-MercedesMCL601’30.5550.28814
411Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPTRB191’31.0040.73712
516Charles LeclercFerrariSF-231’31.0220.75519
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrariSF-231’31.1370.87019
744Lewis HamiltonMercedesW141’31.1590.89212
863George RussellMercedesW141’31.5051.2389
914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’31.5491.28215
1024Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’31.6681.40114
1177Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-FerrariC431’31.6991.43215
1220Kevin MagnussenHaas-FerrariVF-231’31.8801.61315
1331Esteban OconAlpine-RenaultA5231’31.9241.65713
1422Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’31.9511.68417
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas-FerrariVF-231’31.9791.71212
162Logan SargeantWilliams-MercedesFW451’32.0021.73512
1740Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPTAT041’32.0481.78118
1823Alexander AlbonWilliams-MercedesFW451’32.1131.84612
1918Lance StrollAston Martin-MercedesAMR231’32.1541.88719
2010Pierre GaslyAlpine-RenaultA5231’32.1991.93214

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2023 Japanese Grand Prix combined practice times

PositionNumberDriverTeamFP1 timeFP2 timeFP3 timeGapLaps
11Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’31.6471’30.6881’30.2671
24Lando NorrisMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.3921’31.1521’30.5070.2403
381Oscar PiastriMcLaren-Mercedes1’32.7131’31.6621’30.5550.2888
411Sergio PerezRed Bull-Honda RBPT1’33.0431’31.7101’31.0040.7379
516Charles LeclercFerrari1’32.5741’31.0081’31.0220.7412
655Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari1’32.2731’31.2371’31.1370.8704
744Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’33.6991’31.8291’31.1590.89214
863George RussellMercedes1’33.3101’31.3281’31.5051.0615
914Fernando AlonsoAston Martin-Mercedes1’32.6501’31.4921’31.5491.2256
1023Alexander AlbonWilliams-Mercedes1’32.9911’31.5551’32.1131.2887
1124Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’34.8311’32.1651’31.6681.40116
1277Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’33.8601’31.7391’31.6991.43210
1318Lance StrollAston Martin-Mercedes1’33.0401’31.7711’32.1541.50411
1431Esteban OconAlpine-Renault1’33.5161’31.7941’31.9241.52712
1527Nico HulkenbergHaas-Ferrari1’33.4481’31.7971’31.9791.53013
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’33.9751’32.1691’31.8801.61317
1722Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’32.5971’32.1781’31.9511.68418
182Logan SargeantWilliams-Mercedes1’34.2121’32.3201’32.0021.73520
1940Liam LawsonAlphaTauri-Honda RBPT1’33.0051’32.1411’32.0481.78115
2010Pierre GaslyAlpine-Renault1’33.1291’32.1791’32.1991.91219

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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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