SUZUKA: Runaway championship leader Max Verstappen went quickest in Saturday's final practice for the Japanese Grand Prix as he looks to take a giant step towards a third-straight world title.

The Red Bull driver completed a clean sweep of the three practice sessions at Suzuka, blazing around the track in hot, dry conditions with a fastest lap of 1min 30.267sec.

The Dutchman was 0.240sec clear of second-fastest Lando Norris, who clocked a best time of 1min 30.507sec in his McLaren.

Verstappen, who leads teammate and nearest rival Sergio Perez by 151 points in the championship standings, cannot clinch the title on Sunday but a favourable result can set him up to seal the deal at the Qatar Grand Prix next month.

He is looking to bounce back from a disappointing fifth-place finish at last weekend's Singapore Grand Prix that ended his record streak of 10-straight wins.

Verstappen was briefly ousted from the top of the time sheets by Norris, and sounded impatient to reclaim first place.

Coming up behind Yuki Tsunoda, he told his team over the radio that the AlphaTauri driver was “going way too slow”.

His team replied: “Don’t stress yourself about that Max, we’ll work it out.”

McLaren's Oscar Piastri had the third-quickest time on 1min 30.555sec, followed by Red Bull's Perez and Ferrari's Charles Leclerc. - AFP

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