Japansese GP: Rosberg completes practice clean sweep

Nico Rosberg continued his Japanese GP domination over Lewis Hamilton, by topping the final session, as the Brit struggles to set a representative fast lap.

Japansese GP: Rosberg completes practice clean sweep
Nico Rosberg is favourite to claim Pole Position in Qualifying later on Saturday. (Image Credit: Formula One @F1 Twitter)

​Nico Rosberg ​completed a clean sweep of practice at Suzuka, laying down a Qualifying marker to team-mate ​Lewis Hamilton, who could only end up in seventh place.

A 1:32.092 was good enough to see Rosberg continue his recent good form, and to hold of Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel in second and third repsectivly. Max Verstappen was fourth in the other Red Bull, with Kimi Raikkonen 0.227 down on the Dutchman in fifth.

Wiliams driver Felipe Massa was sixth, ahead of Hamilton, who failed to get a clean lap in on the Soft tyre at the end of the session, which accounts for the 1.192s gap to the sister W07 Hybrid.

The Renault's could not be separated with Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen providing some hope for the team, both setting a 1:33.639 for eighth and ninth, the Brit being given the higher standing as he set the time first.

Nico Hulkenberg once again showed the ​Force India's  could pull away from Williams this weekend, claiming tenth place in the final 60 minutes of practice.

​Damp to start with

Overnight and morning rain had left the Suzuka track damp, meaning that running was at a premimum in the early stages of the session, with just a handful of drivers coompleting Install laps on the Intermediate tyre. When the track finally dried, it was McLaren's Fernando Alonso who was the first to venture on slicks, completing a 1:35.935 on his medium tyres.

As the track dried even more, Rosberg came out and set a 1:33.230, which Hamilton failed to beat with just 0.054s. The gap the Mercedes held at this point was over 1s over the field, with third being held by Vettel until Raikkonen came through, to lower the gap by 0.9s. The track was still too wet for Esteban Gutierrez however, who slid off at the Esses.

Esteban Gutierrez's off was as dramatic as FP3 got. (Image Credit: Formula One, @F1 Twitter)
Esteban Gutierrez's off was as dramatic as FP3 got. (Image Credit: Formula One, @F1 Twitter)

The Red Bull's capped off the final runs on the mediums,, with their best times avergaging out to be 0.4 slower than the W07 at the top of the timing screen.

Hamilton on edge

After a period of relative inactivity and final race-pace simulations, the attention switched to the low-fuel, full-power Qualifying simulations, Rosberg was first of the front runners to post a time, which was the 1:32.092 that saw him complete a clean sweep of FP1, FP2 and FP3. Hamilton, meanwhile had trouble on his final lap, failing to improve as dropping to P7, as those around him, did. Interestingly for Qualifying, we will not know Hamilton's true, ultimate pace, until when it comes down to it.

Those behind Rosberg did not have the luxury of a clean lap, as Raikkonen came across a Renault, whom he described over the radio in less than complimentary terms, and Verstappen who was also blocked.

Renault, and Palmer were pleasantly surprised to be well in the top 10, on merit, whilst down in P19, Jenson Button's weekend continued to struggle to ignite, the Brit continuing to report massive understeer in his McLaren, following on from similiar comments on Friday. Carlos Sainz Jr was unable to do any meaningful running, as his Toro Rosso, which has been on the fringes of the top 10 all weekend, suffered from an electrical issue.

Japanese Grand Prix - Third Practice times
Position Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:32.092
2. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +0.302
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +0.639
4. Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.692
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +0.919
6. Felipe Massa Williams +1.179
7. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +1.192
8. Jolyon Palmer Renault +1.547
9. Kevin Magnussen Renault +1.547
10. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1.554
11. Fernando Alonso McLaren +1.622
12. Esteban Gutierrez Haas +1.695
13. Valterri Bottas Williams +1.773
14. Sergio Perez Force India +1.829
15. Danill Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.945
16. Romain Grosjean Haas +2.180
17. Felipe Nasr Sauber +2.296
18. Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2.452
19. Jenson Button McLaren +2.456
20. Esteban Ocon Manor +3.138
21. Pascal Wehrlein Manor +5.164
22. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso +24.231