October 03, 2014

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) Nico Rosberg set the fastest time in Saturday's final practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, edging Mercedes teammate and Formula One title rival Lewis Hamilton who crashed late in the session.

Rosberg's time of 1 minute, 33.228 seconds was 0.982 ahead of Hamilton, who crashed at the first corner and hit the barrier. Fernando Alonso was third fastest, 1.211 seconds off the pace, even though the Ferrari driver didn't put together a perfect lap.

After Rosberg took the top spot, Hamilton started his flying lap, but carried too much speed into the first turn, ran wide onto the asphalt and couldn't avoid hitting the tire barrier.

The front-left corner of his Mercedes was damaged in the crash but his pace earlier was good enough to be second fastest.

Hamilton, who leads Rosberg by three points in the overall title race, will be bidding for his seventh pole of the season in qualifying later Saturday.

Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas completed their laps late in the session to take fourth and fifth fastest ahead of Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo.

McLaren driver Kevin Magnussen was seventh fastest ahead of the two Toro Rossos, with Jean-Eric Vergne outpacing 2015 Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat by less than half-a-tenth.

The morning practice was overshadowed by the announcement that four-time defending champion Sebastian Vettel will leave Red Bull at the end of the season. Vettel finished in 15th place.

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