Japanese GP: Rosberg fastest in dry third free practice

Nico Rosberg set the pace in the first dry running of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend at Suzuka, ahead of Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

After two free practice sessions on Friday that were blighted by rain, FP3 started in completely dry conditions with no further precipitation that has hampered the weekend so far.

After Ricciardo set the early pace, the Mercedes juggernaut put its Singapore nightmare behind it with Rosberg dipping into the 1m33s bracket, three tenths clear of teammate Hamilton. 

Story of the session

Ricciardo was first to set a representative dry time on hard tyres, a 1m36.392s, and quickly lowered that to 1m36.010s. Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen went P2 on 1m36.569s, and then set 1m36.209s.

“Grip is very poor out here,” complained Hamilton after his first run, which he ended in P7 on the hards.

Ricciardo took the medium tyre early and set a 1m34.755s. Red Bull’s quartet of Renault-powered cars filled first four places after 15 minutes, with Ricciardo ahead of Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr and Daniil Kvyat, the latter destroying his first set of hard tyres with a big lock-up.

Verstappen improved to 1m35.160s on the medium, and Sainz to 1m36.059s despite running wide at Degner 2.

McLaren’s Jenson Button leapt temporarily to fourth on 1m36.174s on the mediums, despite blaming his team for putting him on the wrong DRS beep setting, but his session ended early with a technical issue and he finished 12th.

Ricciardo went again on fresh mediums, lowering the top time to 1m34.497s to run almost half a second clear of the pack, ahead of Williams's Valtteri Bottas in P2 on 1m35.128s.

Felipe Massa, who had to make an early pitstop to secure his Williams's headrest, improved to P2 on 1m34.934s, hampering Vettel slightly at the end of his out lap – the Singapore GP winner languishing down in 11th at this juncture.

Hamilton and Rosberg were 12th and 13th respectively just after the halfway point, but Rosberg’s first lap on mediums rocketed him to the top spot on 1m33.995s, half a second quicker than Ricciardo.

Hamilton then recorded a 1m34.292s to go P2, 0.297s down on Rosberg. Bottas went fourth behind Ricciardo, 0.8s off the pace with five minutes remaining.

Vettel was down in 17th before his final run, with Raikkonen 18th. They improved to eighth and sixth respectively, with Vettel delayed by Kvyat.

Kvyat, who had already had one adventure into the Spoon runoff, took a trip to the gravel at Degner 2 and finished way down in 14th.

Massa stayed fifth, with Verstappen seventh behind Raikkonen and ahead of Vettel. Romain Grosjean was the fastest Lotus in ninth, ahead of Sainz.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso had a big moment at Spoon late on, and finished the session in 16th.

FP3: 2015 Japanese GP

Nico Rosberg  Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid  1:33.995    19 
Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid  1:34.292  +0.297  20 
Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull RB11  1:34.497  +0.502  22 
Valtteri Bottas  Williams FW37  1:34.797  +0.802  27 
Felipe Massa  Williams FW37  1:34.934  +0.939  25 
Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari SF15-T  1:35.082  +1.087  16 
Max Verstappen  Toro Rosso STR10  1:35.160  +1.165  26 
Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari SF15-T  1:35.222  +1.227  16 
Romain Grosjean  Lotus E23 Hybrid  1:35.602  +1.607  20 
10  Carlos Sainz Jr.  Toro Rosso STR10  1:35.963  +1.968  29 
11  Nico Hulkenberg  Force India VJM08  1:36.110  +2.115  19 
12  Jenson Button  McLaren MP4-30  1:36.174  +2.179  15 
13  Marcus Ericsson  Sauber C34  1:36.199  +2.204  19 
14  Daniil Kvyat  Red Bull RB11  1:36.294  +2.299  23 
15  Pastor Maldonado  Lotus E23 Hybrid  1:36.307  +2.312  21 
16  Fernando Alonso  McLaren MP4-30  1:36.360  +2.365  18 
17  Sergio Perez  Force India VJM08  1:36.430  +2.435  21 
18  Felipe Nasr  Sauber C34  1:36.919  +2.924  24 
19  Will Stevens  Marussia MR03B  1:39.653  +5.658  24 
20  Alexander Rossi  Marussia MR03B  1:39.819  +5.824  22 
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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Japanese GP
Sub-event Saturday practice
Track Suzuka
Article type Practice report