Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas topped the final practice timesheet at Suzuka at the end of a session that was twice halted by red flags, first as Bottas himself hit the barriers and then for a crash involving Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen.
Bottas posted a best time of 1:29.055s on soft tyres early in the session to finish 0.014s clear of team-mate Lewis Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in third place, with a time set soon in the final third of the hour on supersoft tyres.
In the opening period, with the Mercedes drivers out in front, Red Bull Racing Max Verstappen was third on the soft tyre, 1.334s behind Bottas, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo in fourth place, four tenths further back.
However, Bottas would get no opportunity to improve on his time. With a little over 20 minutes on the clock the Finn ran wide on the exit of the Spoon curve. He ran over the artificial grass and struck the wall several times as he climbed the hill towards 130R. Despite substantial damage to his front wing and the rear right corner of his Mercedes, he managed to limp his car back to the pits, though he would take no further part in the session.
The session resumed just after the halfway point but the action lasted just three minutes. Räikkönen lost control on entry to the tricky Degner 2 corner and his Ferrari snapped out of control and slid left into the gravel trap and the barriers.
With the car needing to be recovered and with little space in which to work the session was red-flagged once more.
A number of driver had their qualifying simulations compromised by the red flags including Lewis Hamilton
Vettel, though, was quickly on track on the resumption, with supersoft tyres on board his Ferrari. He immediately jumped from P10 to third place with a time of 1:29.717, which he then improved to 1:29.379. However, he was still 0.3s adrift of the Mercedes driver’s soft tyre times.
Verstappen’s supersoft tyre run put him fourth, 0.855s off the pace and a tenth of a second ahead of fifth-placed Ricciardo. Force India’s Esteban Ocon tok sixth place, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg in seventh. Fernando Alonso, who has a 35-place grid penalty for engine component changes ahead of FP3, ahead of the second Force India of Sergio Perez. Jolyon Palmer took tenth place for Renault but he too will face a grid drop tomorrow, the Briton being hit with a 20-place penalty for engine component changes.
2017 Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 3
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 9 1:29.055
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 19 1:29.069 0.014
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 23 1:29.379 0.324
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 15 1:29.910 0.855
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 13 1:30.018 0.963
6 Esteban Ocon Force India 12 1:30.109 1.054
7 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 19 1:30.315 1.260
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren 13 1:30.424 1.369
9 Sergio Perez Force India 12 1:30.563 1.508
10 Jolyon Palmer Renault 22 1:30.764 1.709
11 Felipe Massa Williams 21 1:30.764 1.709
12 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 18 1:30.770 1.715
13 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 23 1:30.799 1.744
14 Kevin Magnussen Haas 12 1:30.982 1.927
15 Lance Stroll Williams 20 1:31.011 1.956
16 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 25 1:31.353 2.298
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 13 1:31.459 2.404
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 22 1:32.579 3.524
19 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 21 1:32.698 3.643
20 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 12 1:33.962 4.907