Mercedes ended the final practice session at the Suzuka Circuit on top of the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas heading teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes' were the only two to set their fastest lap on the soft tyre, with every other driver going fastest on the super softs.
There were two red flags deployed during the sixty-minute session. The first was caused by Bottas who ran wide on the exit of the spoon corner, cutting up astroturf and hitting the barrier sideways on, damaging the right side of his Silver Arrow.
His compatriot Kimi Raikkonen was the other driver to bring out the red flag. On the run into the second Degner corner, the rear of the Ferrari stepped out, sending the Finn on a short trip across the gravel and into the tyre barrier.
Title contender Sebastian Vettel was third, and also had a scary moment at the second Degner. The German took to the gravel but managed to avoid the barriers that claimed his teammate. Max Verstappen followed Vettel in fourth place, with the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo coming home in fifth.
Esteban Ocon also demonstrated his pace around the circuit, with his fastest time being only one-tenth off Ricciardo. The Frenchman was sixth, followed by Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault and Fernando Alonso, who is set to start the Grand Prix from the back of the grid.
Sergio Perez was ninth while Jolyon Palmer's fastest time saw him enter the top 10. Williams and Haas both seem to be struggling as qualifying draws nearer, with a Q3 spot looking less and less likely for the Britsh and American squads.
Qualifying gets underway at 15:00 local time, with Mercedes emerging as favourites to take the spoils and claim the spot of most advantage for the race tomorrow.
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