Verstappen still in the lead, Mercedes in ambush

Verstappen still in the lead, Mercedes in ambush

A few minutes before qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, Max Verstappen held his place by taking first place in free practice 3 ahead of Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and George Russell (Mercedes). Ferrari is less successful behind as is Alpine despite modifications made to the Land of the Rising Sun.

The second free practice session resulted in a trio led by Oscar Piastri (McLaren) assisted by Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) and Charles Leclerc (Ferrari). For this third and final free practice session before qualifying scheduled for this Saturday at 8 a.m. (French time), we found the three-time reigning world champion. As in SS1, Max Verstappen took first place in the standings early this Saturday with a little less than two tenths ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez (Red Bull). Behind the duo of drivers from the Austrian team, we find no Ferrari unlike the first two sessions but instead George Russell (Mercedes). Moreover, on the Suzuka circuit, the Silver Arrows showed that they had potential since Lewis Hamilton finished just behind, in the exhausts of his teammate.

And the Ferraris in all this? Interesting in SS1 and SS2, the Italian cars did not shine during the last session. Carlos Sainz was only able to hold on to 7th place, more than half a second behind Max Verstappen. To see his teammate Charles Leclerc, you have to go down a little further. During this third free practice session, the Monegasque finished in a meager tenth place. Above all, Lewis Hamilton’s future teammate next year expressed on the radio his dissatisfaction with Ferrari’s strategy in terms of the number of driving laps at the end of the session.

Alpine still suffering

Respectively sixth and eighth, the McLaren drivers have gone the distance and remain in ambush behind. Which is not the case with Alpine. In great difficulty since the start of the season, the French team arrived in Japan with (non-major) developments to try to reverse the trend. For the moment, these contributions have not allowed Alpine to reach the first part of the ranking. In these free practices 3, Esteban Ocon climbed to 14th place while Pierre Gasly could only be satisfied with 17th place, just ahead of Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) who was still disappointing. Everything will be decided in a few minutes, during the qualifying session.

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