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Japanese GP, Practice Three: Lewis Hamilton fastest but Ferrari close in

Sky Sports | Updated: 2018-10-06 16:00:30

Qualifying for the Japanese GP could prove an unpredictable rollercoaster after rain and strong gusty wind descended on Suzuka.

Although race day is forecast to be sunny and dry, the awkward conditions brought severe disruption to Saturday's morning Practice Three with the conditions reducing track running to a minimum until the final ten minutes before a crash for Nico Hulkenberg brought the session to an early end.

The Renault ran wide through Turn Five, lost grip and slithered into the barriers.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg crashes out of Practice Three for the Japanese GP.

Having abandoned his first flying lap at the start of the session when he was caught out by a damp track, Lewis Hamilton produced a late burst to set the fastest lap in his Mercedes.

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But Hamilton's time was only one tenth of a second faster than Sebastian Vettel's personal best, suggesting that Ferrari, a distant second best in Friday practice, are back in the fight for qualifying after a series of overnight set-up changes.

"It was way closer than expected," noted Sky F1's Anthony Davidson.

"I think we could have quite a battle on our hands," concurred Paul di Resta.

When's the Japanese GP on Sky?

Watch every session from Suzuka live on Sky Sports F1 this weekend - the race starts at 6.10am on Sunday

Kimi Raikkonen was third fastest, just ahead of Max Verstappen on an improved morning for the Red Bull, with Valtteri Bottas only fifth in the second Mercedes.

"It could be one of the best qualifying sessions of the season," predicted David Croft.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen ran onto the gravel and then the grass after losing the rear through the esses in Suzuka.

Daniel Ricciardo, the Force Indias of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez, followed by Carlos Sainz of Renault and Haas' Kevin Magnussen completed the top ten.

For the second day in succession, Pierre Gasly was troubled by reliability in his Honda-powered Toro Rosso after the introduction of a new, more powerful engine.

With five races remaining this year, championship leader Hamilton leads nearest title rival Sebastian Vettel by 50 points.

Qualifying takes place at 7am UK time.

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