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
|1||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid||1:33.995||19|
|2||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes F1 W06 Hybrid||1:34.292||+0.297||20|
|3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull RB11||1:34.497||+0.502||22|
|4||Valtteri Bottas||Williams FW37||1:34.797||+0.802||27|
|5||Felipe Massa||Williams FW37||1:34.934||+0.939||25|
|6||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari SF15-T||1:35.082||+1.087||16|
|7||Max Verstappen||Toro Rosso STR10||1:35.160||+1.165||26|
|8||Sebastian Vettel||Ferrari SF15-T||1:35.222||+1.227||16|
|9||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|