Lewis Hamilton has given his hopes of a strong performance in today’s critical qualifying session a major blow, after he crashed out in the dying minutes of final practice at the Suzuka Circuit. Teammate Nico Rosberg headed proceedings, dominating the stopwatch in the final practice hour.

Moments after Rosberg posted a session-topping 1:33.228 – comfortably quickest of the entire weekend so far – Hamilton made a mistake on turn-in at the first corner, slid wide over the kerbs and straight into the tyre wall. The crashed caused damage to the front-left corner of his Mercedes, giving his mechanics a tough slog to ready his F1W05 in time for qualifying at 2:00pm local time.

That left Rosberg to enjoy an unchallenged run to the top of the timing screens to the tune of almost a second over his teammate and main title rival, who remained second-quickest after the chasing pack failed to depose him with their final flying laps.

Hamilton wasn’t the only high-profile driver to strike trouble of sorts in the session. Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel finished well down the order with barely ten laps run between them; the former’s was triggered by Ferrari’s decision to swap his power unit before qualifying, while the latter suffered from software gremlins in his Renault power unit.

Räikkönen’s teammate Fernando Alonso finished third quickest at the chequered flag, with Felipe Massa edging out Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas for fourth.

Daniel Ricciardo showed solid pace in his heavily-repaired Red Bull and went sixth-fastest, while McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen improved with a late effort to xlaim seventh, ahead of the Toro Rosso pairing of Jean-Éric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat. Jenson Button completed the top-ten in the sister McLaren.

2014 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 3 Results:

  Driver   Team / Entry Time Gap Laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05 1:33.228   14
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05 1:34.210 + 0.982 10
3. Fernando Alonso Scuderia Ferrari F14T 1:34.439 + 1.211 12
4. Felipe Massa Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36 1:34.564 + 1.336 12
5. Valtteri Bottas Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36 1:35.061 + 1.833 16
6. Daniel Ricciardo Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10 1:35.086 + 1.858 13
7. Kevin Magnussen McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 1:35.251 + 2.023 16
8. Jean-Eric Vergne Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9 1:35.494 + 2.266 8
9. Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9 1:35.538 + 2.310 17
10. Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 1:35.549 + 2.321 16
11. Nico Hülkenberg Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07 1:35.732 + 2.504 15
12. Kimi Räikkönen Scuderia Ferrari F14T 1:36.995 + 2.767 5
13. Sergio Pérez Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07 1:36.365 + 3.137 8
14. Esteban Gutiérrez Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33 1:36.407 + 3.179 22
15. Sebastian Vettel Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10 1:36.460 + 3.232 6
16. Romain Grosjean Lotus F1 Team Renault E22 1:36.558 + 3.330 19
17. Pastor Maldonado Lotus F1 Team Renault E22 1:36.617 + 3.389 12
18. Adrian Sutil Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33 1:36.626 + 3.398 20
19. Marcus Ericsson Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05 1:37.367 + 4.139 12
20. Max Chilton Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:37.883 + 4.655 17
21. Jules Bianchi Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03 1:38.102 + 4.874 15
22. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05 1:38.784 + 5.556 12

Image via XPB Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.