Verstappen leads Japanese GP F1 FP2 ahead of Leclerc and Norris; Gasly crashes out

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Max Verstappen continued to show strong pace in second practice for the 2023 Japanese GP, leading Charles Leclerc by nearly a third of a second, with Lando Norris a further 0.15s back. Alexander Albon showed impressive pace in his Williams, getting up to seventh place and just under nine tenths back from Verstappen. Pierre Gasly crashed out at Degner two at the very end of the session, completely destroying the front of his Alpine.

Photo Credits: Red Bull Content Pool

After a cloudy FP1, the conditions remained much the same as the drivers headed out for second practice at the 2023 Japanese GP.

Pirelli continued to test prototype C2 tyres for the 2024 season during the session, with most drivers heading out in the test tyres for the first few minutes of the session.

Continuing from where he left off in FP1, Max Verstappen went straight to the top with his first flying lap, with a 1:31.377 on the soft tyres putting him 1.6s clear of his team-mate Sergio Perez, who set his time on the medium tyres, with Lando Norris then slotting his McLaren between the pair, just over seven tenths back from the Dutchman, with the McLaren also on the medium tyres, as the session reached its 10-minute mark.

Alex Albon then got his Williams to an impressive P3, with his lap on the soft tyres leaving him just under a second slower than Verstappen – but the Thai soon reported that he “for sure” incurred floor damage in his FW45 after running over the kerbs on the exit of Degner two.

Winner in Singapore last time out, Carlos Sainz briefly occupied second place, just over 0.7s behind the reigning world champion, before his team-mate Charles Leclerc showed his hand with a lap just over a third of a second slower than Verstappen, as the session approached its one-third of duration.

Mercedes’ FP1 struggles seemed to continue at the second session, with George Russell’s first lap on the softs leaving him nearly seven tenths back from Verstappen’s earlier benchmark, with Lewis Hamilton then slotting even further back, in sixth place and nearly nine tenths behind the Red Bull driver. Kevin Magnussen showed impressive pace for Haas, jumping up to sixth fastest ahead of Hamilton.

Lando Norris put McLaren’s heavily upgraded car that debuted in Singapore through its paces in Suzuka, going fastest overall with a time of a 1:31.152, nearly a quarter of a second clear of Verstappen, with Alex Albon then jumping up to third fastest, just four tenths back from the Briton.

Newly re-signed with McLaren until 2026, and sporting the new upgrades on his MCL60 for the first time today, Oscar Piastri could only manage the fourth best time, over half-a-second behind his team-mate.

Charles Leclerc then managed a 1:31.008 to go fastest overall as the session reached its halfway mark, over 0.15s clear of Norris and two tenths clear of Sainz.

The order of the top 10 at the halfway mark was: Leclerc, Norris, Sainz, Verstappen, Albon, Piastri, Perez, Bottas, Hulkenberg and Russell.

Fernando Alonso then muscled his way to the top five, with his lap on the soft tyres leaving him just under half-a-second back from Leclerc.

Verstappen then reclaimed his top spot with a lap of a 1:30.688, putting him a third of a second clear of the Monegasque, with the fastest time of the day.

Russell managed to get his Mercedes up to sixth place, just under six-and-a-half tenths back from Verstappen’s latest effort, with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton being the last driver to set a competitive lap on the soft tyres, but the seven-time world champion could only manage a lowly 14th place with his effort, a whopping 1.1s back from the Dutchman, and over half-a-second behind Russell.

With most teams turning their attention to race simulations and long run data gathering, the order stayed pretty much unchanged as the session reached its final 20 minutes.

With one third of the session remaining, the classified order of the top 10 was: Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Sainz, Russell, Alonso, Albon, Piastri, Perez and Bottas.

Outside the top 10, Lance Stroll featured in 11th place in his first day back since his horrific qualifying accident in Singapore. He was followed by Ocon, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Lawson, Zhou, Magnussen, Tusnoda, Gasly and Logan Sargeant.

Mercedes informed Russell over the radio that some cars were suffering from “very high degradation” on the soft tyres during long runs.

Whilst many drivers pushed the limits of the Suzuka circuit, finding the kerbs and gravel traps especially at Degner two, Pierre Gasly found the wall at the famous turn’s exit at the very end of the session, locking up his brakes and binning his A523 in the tyre barries, bringing the session to a slightly premature end with a late red flag.