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Japanese Grand Prix 2023

Verstappen completes practice clean sweep as McLaren close gap

Can Norris and Piastri challenge F1's championship leader?

Verstappen Japan
Article
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen secured a practice clean sweep with the fastest time in FP3 ahead of Japanese Grand Prix qualifying.

The F1 championship leader finished 0.240 seconds quicker than McLaren's Lando Norris, with Oscar Piastri third in the second MCL60 to close the gap to Verstappen from Friday.

But attention now turns to qualifying as tyre degradation looks to play a part for the remainder of the weekend.

Result Free practice 3 - Japanese

Pos. Driver Team Time Tyre
Results are being loaded...

There was no rush of activity early in the session as teams tried to wait for more representative track conditions ahead of qualifying following rain overnight.

With a potential three-stop race expected on Sunday, tyre usage could prove critical and it showed with almost every team - other than AlphaTauri and Aston Martin with Lance Stroll - exclusively running the Soft tyres.

George Russell reported a gear synchronisation issue when his Mercedes eventually hit the track, whilst Fernando Alonso took his Aston Martin for a trip over the raised kerb on the exit of the second Degner.

Ferrari's duo also had issues at that section of track, with Charles Leclerc catching a slide before teammate Carlos Sainz drifted wide to dip a wheel into the gravel at Degner One.

When the qualifying simulations were run at the end of the session, it was Verstappen who again prevailed having expertly nursed his Soft tyres through the lap.

McLaren duo Norris and Piastri were within three-tenths, with Ferrari formation flying behind Sergio Perez - Leclerc ahead of Sainz.

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest of the Mercedes drivers, with Russell directly behind in eighth, albeit with a four-tenth deficit to the seven-time World Champion.

The latter ended the session with a damaged rear wheel shield to leave Mercedes with a lengthy repair job before qualifying.

Fernando Alonso was only ninth for Aston Martin ahead of Alfa Romeo's Zhou Guanyu and Valtteri Bottas.

Kevin Magnussen was 12th for Haas ahead of Esteban Ocon's Alpine as the French manufacturer continued to struggle for pace, with teammate Pierre Gasly finishing last of all following repairs triggered by his FP2 crash.

Yuki Tsunoda was 14th after news of his contract extension at AlphaTauri with Nico Hulkenberg in 15th.

Logan Sargeant finished ahead of Alex Albon as Williams finished 16th and 18th, the duo separated by Liam Lawson, with Lance Stroll and Gasly at the bottom of the leaderboard.

F1 2023 Japanese Grand Prix RN365 News dossier

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