Japanese GP 2017

OCTOBER 7, 2017

Practice 3 Report - Fast and crash

Valtteri Bottas, Japanese GP 2017
© RV Press


By Dan Knutson in Suzuka

Valtteri Bottas clocked the fastest time in Free Practice 3 for the Japanese Grand Prix, but then crashed his Mercedes and had to sit out the rest of the session. No one else managed to beat his time in the latter half of FP3.

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes - Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault - Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault - Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

Rain had washed out FP2, and the drivers had done few if any laps in the session.

"The car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia," Hamilton said Friday. "I'm glad that we had the dry session for FP1. In FP2, there was a lot of rain, but it felt really important to go out and assess the track and see how the car was feeling as the car was not good in the wet in Malaysia. The car feels back to normal, so I'm ready to race.

"The fans are pretty special here - to be out there in the rain, waiting for us to go out through the whole of FP2. That's also another reason I wanted to go out and at least give them a little bit of a show. So hopefully at least they got to see something as not many cars went out."

The ambient temperature at the start of the 60-minute session was 72 degrees Fahrenheit (22 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 degrees Centigrade). The humidity was 79 percent.

It was dry for FP3, but there were still a few damp patches on the track from overnight rain. Alonso and Gasly were the first out. All the drivers were on slicks.

Hamilton, on the soft compound Pirellis, set the early mark with a 1:29.699. The other two compounds available were the medium and super soft. Bottas, also on the softs, shaded that with his 1:29.529. Hamilton came back with a 1:29.069. Bottas skimmed 0.014 of a second from that as he turned a 1:29.055.

The race lap record was 1:28.954 set by Michael Schumacher in 2006.

Twenty-one minutes into FP3 the red flags came out. Bottas had run wide coming out of Spoon curve, hit the barrier, and left bits of his car on the track as well as damaging the right rear.

The top 10 at this time were: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Perez, Massa, Gasly, Stroll and Vettel.

Twenty-nine minutes remained when the debris was cleaned up and the session restarted. Everybody but Bottas was soon in action.

But not for long as Raikkonen crashed at Degner 2, and the session was red flagged again.

Twenty-one minutes remained when the session was restarted again.

Vettel, now on super softs, could only get within 0.662 of a second of Bottas' time on the softs. On his second attempt he got that down to 0.324 of a second.

Verstappen began his run on the super softs with about six minutes to go, and his 1:29.910 put him fourth. Others were doing super soft laps, and Ricciardo got up to fifth.

All the drivers did their best laps on super softs bar Bottas and Hamilton who were on the soft tires.

The top 10 were: Bottas, Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Perez and Palmer.