Verstappen over half a second clear of the field in FP1 at the F1 Japanese GP

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It was a cloudy and humid morning at Suzuka as the first session got underway.

2024 tyre testing was also taking place as Pirelli prepare for next year.

Two-time defending World Champion Max Verstappen flew out of the traps as a 1:33.719 put him over a second clear of Alonso, Piastri, Leclerc and Hülkenberg after a few minutes of running. It was a mix of hards, mediums and prototype tyres.

The Dutchman chipped away at his time to lower the benchmark to a 1:33.354, with the McLarens of Piastri and Norris slotting into P2 and P3, the only drivers within a second of the Red Bull driver. Alonso and Perez completed the top 5 after 10 minutes.

After switching from hards to the prototype tyre, Verstappen banged in a 1:32.442 to further extend his lead at the top. Alonso got within 0.724s using the medium. On the same tyre as his teammate, Perez was 1.446s adrift as he went 3rd.

Piastri, Russell, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Hamilton and Bottas completed the top 10 after 20 minutes. 2.468s covered Verstappen to Bottas.

The order behind Verstappen and Alonso changed around at the halfway point of the session as Hamilton moved up to P3 ahead of Stroll, Russell, Perez, Gasly, Lawson, Piastri and Norris.

Haas were the first team to bring out the softs and Nico Hülkenberg took full advantage of the extra grip to move into P3, albeit a second away from Verstappen. Perez then moved into 2nd using the red tyre as well.

However, Verstappen soon showed his extraordinary speed once again as he smashed in a 1:31.647, a whopping 1.396s faster than Perez.

Photo credit: Red Bull Content Pool

A solid lap from Carlos Sainz moved him into P2, 0.626s slower than the Dutchman. Leclerc was 0.3s adrift of his teammate to be P3 with 15 minutes remaining.

Home hero Yuki Tsunoda put in a tidy lap to vault up into 4th, a mere 0.023s behind Leclerc’s Ferrari. Alonso, Norris, Albon, Lawson, Stroll and Perez completed the top 10. The McLaren driver was the only one not on softs, as he was using the prototype compound.

McLaren threw on the softs at the end and moved up. Norris went 3rd, with Piastri jumping into 7th. The Aussie put in a sold time after a hairy moment in Denger 1 earlier in the session as he had a big snap following a big clout of the inside kerb on entry.

Verstappen’s dominant showing was the talking point of the session, with Sainz, Norris, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Alonso, Piastri, Albon, Lawson and Stroll completing the top 10.

Perez, Gasly, Russell, Hülkenberg, Ocon, Hamilton, Bottas, Magnussen, Sargeant and Zhou filled the remainder of the timesheet in first practice. Mercedes did not run the softs.