Nico Rosberg quickest in frantic Japanese GP practice

Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time ahead of world champion Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes flexed their muscles in a frantic final practice Saturday for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg quickest in frantic Japanese GP practice

Suzuka: Nico Rosberg posted the fastest time ahead of world champion Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes flexed their muscles in a frantic final practice Saturday for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Rosberg, who trails championship leader Hamilton by 41 points in the title race, clocked one minute, 33.995 seconds -- 0.297 quicker than the Briton -- to gain the upper hand before qualifying later on Saturday.

Red Bull`s Daniel Ricciardo went third fastest ahead of Valtteri Bottas`s Williams after a busy session following Friday`s rain-soaked practices.

The Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, who won in Singapore last weekend to boost his outside title hopes, were sixth and eighth respectively, though neither came within a second of Rosberg`s mark.

Torrential rain effectively washed out Friday`s two sessions, with Hamilton complaining Mercedes had learned "diddly squat" for Sunday`s Suzuka race and despite the track drying out, he said over the team radio "the grip is very poor out here" as he chased Rosberg`s time.

Dutch teenager Max Verstappen showed decent early pace, finishing seventh in between the Ferraris, while Frenchman Romain Grosjean was ninth for troubled Lotus, who have been locked out of their hospitality unit all week because of unpaid bills.

Memories of Frenchman Jules Bianchi`s fatal crash at a wet Suzuka last year will make the Japanese Grand Prix an emotional occasion, but a repeat of his 2014 victory would put Hamilton tantalisingly close to a third title.

The Briton suffered his first race-ending retirement in over a year in last Sunday`s race, when the dominant Mercedes were rocked by a mysterious loss of pace, with Hamilton also being out-paced by Vettel by 1.5 seconds in qualifying.

Vettel also ended a run of 23 straight qualifying wins for the Silver Arrows.

Hamilton will be chasing an eighth victory in 14 races this season in Japan and bidding to equal boyhood hero Ayrton Senna`s tally of 41 race wins.

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