SUZUKA (Japan), Oct 8 – Red Bull’s Max Verstappen limbered up for Formula One qualifying with the fastest time in today’s final practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Dutchman, who could clinch a second successive title on Sunday, lapped the 5.8 km-long Suzuka circuit in one minute, 30.671 seconds to go 0.294 seconds clear of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

The Spaniard’s team mate, Charles Leclerc, was third.

Verstappen leads Leclerc by 104 points in the overall standings and is 106 clear of Mexican team mate Sergio Perez, the only two drivers who can challenge him, albeit only mathematically.

The 25-year-old will be champion on Sunday if he leaves Japan with a 112-point advantage at least with just four races to go following Sunday’s round at Suzuka.

Fernando Alonso was an impressive fourth for Alpine ahead of Perez.

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, completing a one-two for Mercedes on a rainy opening day of practice on Friday, were sixth and seventh.

Lando Norris was eighth for McLaren ahead of Alpine racer Esteban Ocon.

Lance Stroll rounded out the top 10 for Aston Martin.

Mick Schumacher, who is using the Haas team’s spare chassis after crashing on Friday, was 16th.

Home hope Yuki Tsunoda was 17th for AlphaTauri.

Pierre Gasly, leaving AlphaTauri for Alpine next season, propped up the timesheets.

Today’s hour of running was the first chance for drivers and teams to dial their cars in to the track in dry conditions.

There were no major incidents as drivers explored the limits of the popular track, which back on the calendar this season after a two-year, Covid-19 induced absence. – Reuters