Japanese GP FP1: Verstappen leads Perez, Sainz chases

Japanese GP FP1: Verstappen leads Perez, Sainz chases

Japanese GP FP1: Verstappen leads Perez, Sainz chases

Max Verstappen resumed duty as normal and topped the first practice session for the 2024 Japanese Grand Prix ahead of teammate Sergio Perez.

The reigning Formula 1 Champion will be on a mission to rebound from his disappointing weekend in Australia, where he suffered a DNF after his rear right brake failed.

The Suzuka track should suit the Red Bull RB20 on paper and Verstappen is historically formidable at this classic F1 venue.

Sergio Perez was second fastest in the sister RB20, not too far off his teammate’s pace, while Carlos Sainz was the faster of the Ferrari cars, third fastest, Charles Leclerc down in sixth and behind the George Russell and Lewis Hamilton – fourth and fifth respectively in the Mercedes.

Buildup Towards FP1

Here we are, the fourth round of the 2024 F1 season, in Japan at the magnificent Suzuka, and there is much to be excited about.

The previous round in Melbourne saw Ferrari take a great one-two, Sainz winning and Leclerc in second as Verstappen retired with a failed brake.

Sainz said he is back to 100% fitness, so will Ferrari continue their strong form, or will Red Bull bounce back? An interesting weekend to look out for.

Many teams are bringing upgrades for the fourth race already, with Sauber bringing a new floor body while RB have a new floor body and new floor edge as well.

Williams, who still do not have a spare chassis, have a new front wing end plate, a new rear wing and a new beam wing.

Alpine have some weight-saving upgrades, along with a new front wing, a revised front brake drum duct arrangement as well as a new wing.

Aston Martin have some interesting upgrades, a new floor body, new floor fences, a new floor edge, as well as a new diffuser.

As for the top teams, Ferrari have a new front wing and a revised rear suspension – a reprofiled rear top wishbone rearward leg fairing.

Red Bull, on the other hand, have a revised sidepod inlet along with revised location of cooling inlets in the bodywork, a new floor body, a new floor edge and a new circuit specific smaller inlet and exit ducts for the front brakes.

As for Pirelli, the Italian tyre manufacturer brought the hardest range of their tyres to Suzuka, the C1 (Hard), C2 (Medium) and C3 (Soft).

FP1 Session Highlights

The session started in cloudy conditions with track temperature at 25 degrees Celsius with ambient temperatures at 17 degrees. Riske of rain is at 20%.

Ayumu Iwasa who is replacing Daniel Ricciardo at RB as he makes his practice debut was soon out on track and soon Russell was complaining about a McLaren slowing down suddenly in the middle of the track, while Sainz was not happy with an Alpine also slowing him down.

The majority of the cars are on Medium tyres while Ferrari, Red Bull, and one of the Haas cars are on Hards with the Aston Martin featuring aero rakes on their AMR24 – Lance Stroll’s car.

Replay showed the rake was loose on the Canadian’s car, partially damaged from the left side as he heads to the pits.

Less than 20 minutes into the session and Lando Norris was on top with Fernando Alonso second behind him but with an identical time, both drivers setting their lap times on Mediums.

With over twenty minutes, Stroll and Alex Albon were the only two drivers with no times on the board, while rookie Iwasa was last and 2.878s off the pace.

Soon Verstappen goes to the top on Hard tyres over three tenths faster than Norris’ time, on Mediums.

Halfway through the session, Hamilton was the first to set a time on the Soft tyres and went fastest, but moments later the Red Flag is out as Logan Sargeant binned his Williams at Turn 7 damaging the front and the rear of his car.

The driver was fine, the gearbox is definitely at risk, but is the chassis fine? The team do not have a spare yet… The American is using the fixed chassis that Albon damaged in Melbourne.

The session was restarted with less than 20 minutes remaining on the clock and the teams rushed to put in some more running with Soft tyres now bolted to the cars.

Verstappen was the first car at the pitlane exit waiting for the green light with Perez right behind him. Russell followed with Sainz and Alonso in pursuit. The latter three were soon fighting for on track position to make sure they have a proper out lap.

Nico Hulkenberg was given a black and white flag for not following the race director’s instructions and crossing the white line at the pit exit.

Verstappen, from his first lap on Softs, went back to the top of the time sheets finding more the 1.3s and soon his teammate joins him at the top in second.

The other drivers went on with their Soft tyre runs, before some fuel was added to the cars as the longer runs started.

With less than nine minutes remaining, some scarce spots of rain were reported in the pitlane, nothing dramatic enough to affect the running, as the teams kept on putting in the laps on higher fuel loads.

The drivers concluded their session with practice starts.

How they finished

Verstappen posted a lap time of 1:30.056 to go fastest, 0.181s ahead of Perez, second fastest in the sister Red Bull while Sainz was third in the Ferrari, over two tenths off the pace.

Russell was fourth fastest, 0.261s behind Sainz and 0.013s ahead of teammate Hamilton, fifth fastest in the other Mercedes.

Leclerc was sixth fastest in the #16 Ferrari, 0.289s off his teammate’s pace and 0.041s ahead of Alonso, seventh in the heavily upgraded Aston Martin.

Oscar Piastri was the faster McLaren driver, eighth fastest but a worrying 1.109s off the pace with Yuki Tsunoda ninth fastest, 0.165s behind the Aussie in ninth.

Norris was tenth fastest in the other McLaren 1.184s off the pace.

Alpine seemed to be in better shape, for now that is, as Esteban Ocon was 11th fastest, ahead of Albon in 12th.

Iwasa, was 16th fastest on his F1 debut with RB, over two seconds off the pace, but the team was happy with the Japanese rookie as per the post session team radio.

Japanese GP FP1 Classification