Hamilton remains in charge in tricky FP3 at Suzuka

© XPB 

Lewis Hamilton remained the fastest driver around Suzuka for the third time this weekend, the Mercedes laying down a lap in 1m29.599s in a tricky final practice session marked by a spell of rain, gusty winds and a heavy crash for Renault's Nico Hulkenberg that brought out the red flag.

Hamilton edged Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen by just 0.116s and 0.455s respectively, with team mate Valtteri Bottas placing himself fourth in front of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo.

2018 Japanese Grand Prix - Free Practice 2

1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:29.599s13
2Sebastian VettelFerrari1:29.715s+ 0.116s14
3Kimi RäikkönenFerrari1:30.054s+ 0.455s13
4Max VerstappenRed Bull1:30.304s+ 0.705s13
5Valtteri BottasMercedes1:30.422s+ 0.823s13
6Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1:30.474s+ 0.875s10
7Esteban OconForce India1:31.088s+ 1.489s12
8Sergio PérezForce India1:31.483s+ 1.884s12
9Carlos SainzRenault1:31.513s+ 1.914s14
10Kevin MagnussenHaas1:31.521s+ 1.922s13
11Romain GrosjeanHaas1:31.636s+ 2.037s14
12Charles LeclercSauber1:31.760s+ 2.161s14
13Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1:32.030s+ 2.431s13
14Lance StrollWilliams1:32.201s+ 2.602s14
15Nico HülkenbergRenault1:32.224s+ 2.625s12
16Marcus EricssonSauber1:32.442s+ 2.843s10
17Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1:32.608s+ 3.009s14
18Sergey SirotkinWilliams1:32.631s+ 3.032s14
19Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1:33.034s+ 3.435s13
20Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1:33.105s+ 3.506s10

Reports called for some light rain around Suzuka at the start of the third free practice session, but everyone took to a dry track while the clouds moved in.

Ferraris Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel were among the first to get down to business, running unsurprisingly on supersoft tyres. The Finn's early effort yielded a 1m30.054s, with his team mate about a tenth slower.

Ten minutes into the running, the wind picked up the rain did appear, enticing drivers to dodge the water and pull into the pits.

After about 15 minutes of zero activity, Valtteri Bottas ventured out, reporting back to the Mercedes pitwall that "the track feels okay".

Caution was exerted however, with everyone avoiding the kerbs and the astroturf. Raikkonen ran wide however at the final part of the Esses, enjoying a bit of rallycross before rejoining the track.

The wind, which in the interim had blown away the clouds and revealed a blue sky over Suzuka once again, was definitely challenging drivers in several areas, but a great first sector by Hamilton still put the Brit at the top of the timesheet with a 1m29.599.

With just over two minutes to go in the session, Nico Hulkenberg picked up a gust at the Essess, put a wheel on the kerb and went off before clouting the barriers.

The Renault sustained some heavy damage that will leave the French team's mechanics scrambling to repair the German's car in time for qualifying.

The session was red-flagged and eventually terminated, but the incident was definitely a warning that a delicate qualifying lay ahead.

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