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Bottas quickest in FP3 but crashes

NEWS STORY
07/10/2017

Ahead of today's sole practice session the air temperature is 21 degrees C, while the track temperature is 28 degrees. After yesterday's wash-out we are happy to report that today it is not only dry, it is bright and almost sunny.

That said, there was rain earlier - Suzuka wouldn't be Suzuka without some of the wet stuff - so there remain some damp patches.

The big news this morning is that following two relatively trouble-free weekends - we did say relatively - it is business as usual for Fernando Alonso and McLaren, the Spaniard incurring a 25-place grid penalty following an engine change after a hydraulic leak was discovered in his power unit.

Alonso joins countryman Carlos Sainz and Mercedes Valtteri Bottas who have also incurred grid penalties, while a driver who may yet also be hit is Sebastian Vettel who this morning will try the gearbox last seen in his car in the post-race clash with Lance Stroll.

With so little running in FP2 yesterday, and even FP1 compromised following Sainz' crash, we can expect a busy morning.

The lights go green and it is Alonso who leads the way, followed by Gasly and Wehrlein. Vettel is another early riser. Indeed, the German reports the "track is dry everywhere".

Gasly gets the first time on the board, the Toro Rosso driver posting a 33.030.

A good mixture of all three compounds in use as more and more drivers head out.

Bottas, who admits to a lack of form since the summer break, can only manage 46.791 while teammate Hamilton bangs in a 29.699 to make clear his intention.

Just 8 minutes into the session there are 11 names on the board, Bottas now topping the list with a 29.529, only to be leapfrogged by his teammate who stops the clock at 29.069.

Both Mercedes drivers on softs, while the highest placed supersoft runner is Gasly (4th).

Both Red Bull drivers running different set-ups according to Christian Horner, among these, Ricciardo has a T-wing while Verstappen doesn't.

A 29.055 sees Bottas go quickest again, while Alonso goes third (30.926) and Vettel seventh (33.486) just ahead of his Ferrari teammate.

13 minutes in and all have appeared bar the Force India duo. Meanwhile, Magnussen's car is up on its stand being worked on, the Dane suffering a hydraulics issue in FP1.

Ricciardo's first flying lap sees the Australian - on supers - go third with a 30.839, albeit 1.7s off Bottas' pace. Moments later the Australian is demoted by his teammate who posts 30.389.

As Ocon finally heads out, Vettel and Ricciardo both run wide, the German at Degner and the Australian at Spoon.

Already dominating on the softs, the Mercedes duo now switch to the supers, though we know that they don't always get the best out of them.

Indeed, the camera picks up on Bottas who has run wide and damage his front wing and has a punctured right-rear.

"Give us a damage report," he is told. "Not sure about the front right, but the rear right is damaged," Bottas replies.

The session is red flagged.

Replay shows he ran wide in Spoon, and then continued to run on the grass following a minor brush with the barriers, only to have a slightly harder clash which caused the wing damage.

Though the Finn makes it back to the pits, the red flag is for the damage to the Astroturf.

With the floor of his car damaged, this will compromise Bottas' for the remainder of the session, which could also impact his qualifying... and let's not forget he already has a grid penalty.

As the session resumes with 29 minutes of running remaining, Magnussen, Grosjean and Ocon have yet to post times.

The hapless Bottas is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Perez, Massa, Gasly, Stroll and Vettel.

Mercedes subsequently confirms that the entire right rear of Bottas's car needs repairing so he won't be out again.

Ferrari confirms that the second part of the session will be dedicated to qualifying simulation. We expect that will be the case for a number of teams.

Oh dear, out comes the red flag again as Raikkonen is in the barriers at the second Degner. A frustrated Finn climbs from his car which has incurred significant damage to its right side.

Replay shows he simply carried too much speed into the notorious corner and there was little he could do about it.

The session resumes with 22 minutes remaining. Unsurprisingly there is a rush to get out again, the drivers frustrated having not only lost time to two red flags but also a set of tyres after their qualifying sims were ruined by Raikkonen's off.

"I touched the wet grass and just lost it," Bottas tells Sky Italia. "It's such a fine line, it was my mistake."

As his teammate begins his flying lap, Raikkonen arrives back in the pitlane.

A 33.486 sees Vettel improve to third, albeit 0.662s off the pace.

Ocon finally posts a time (31.142), and its good enough for 8th.

As Magnussen posts 32.372 to go 15th, teammate Grosjean is the only driver yet to post a time.

Vettel improves (29.379) but remains third, as Vandoorne complains that his tyres are "dropping off".

Grosjean heads out, the Frenchman now on the obligatory red-banded rubber.

Perez, also finally on the supersofts, goes sixth with a 30.563.

A 31.459 sees Grosjean go 14th.

Ocon improves to fourth with a 30.109 as replay shows Sainz running the red light at the end of the second red flag period. He realises his mistake and stops but will that be enough to satisfy the stewards?

Verstappen, looking none the worse for ditching the T-wing, posts 29.910 to go fourth.

"Did you tell him I was there," complains Grosjean, after losing time behind his Haas teammate.

Ricciardo, who has the T-wing, unlike his teammate, goes fifth with a 30.018.

T-wing or no T-wing, fact is the Bulls are both over 0.8s off the pace. And let's not forget the fact that the Mercedes duo posted their best times on softs.

The session ends.

Bottas is quickest, ahead of Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Perez and Palmer.

Massa is eleventh, ahead of Vandoorne, Sainz, Magnussen, Stroll, Gasly, Grosjean, Ericsson, Wehrlein and Raikkonen.

So Bottas tops the timesheets, but that little clash with the barriers leaves his crew with a lot of work during the break, while countryman Raikkonen's moment means no lunch for the Ferrari boys.

An interesting session, and one which sets us up nicely for this afternoon.

Check out our Saturday gallery from Suzuka, here.

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