Red Bull established itself as the team to beat in no-nonsense fashion as the Japanese Grand Prix weekend got underway. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber breezed to the top of the times on Friday morning, 0.048 seconds apart, and a clear half second in front of third-placed Robert Kubica, whose Renault was the only car within a second of the leaders.
Force India's Adrian Sutil was the man in fourth, despite technical issues holding him back in the garage for a long while, as Red Bull's title rivals had tricky morning.
Lewis Hamilton didn't get far in first practice © Sutton
Ferrari's lack of pace - neither of its cars breaking into the top 10 - would turn out to be simply due to a more conservative programme for first practice, but McLaren's issues were real.
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Matt Beer started freelancing for Autosport.com in the first week of its existence in 1999, and spent the next decade-and-a-half dovetailing increasing amounts of time contributing to it with UK national reporting, driver and team PR, freelance for organisations including ITV, BMW, Autocourse and the FIA Institute and a parallel career co-managing award-winning Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatres.
He stopped being stubborn and became Autosport.com's deputy editor in April 2014. Matt also oversees Haymarket's talent development programme for emerging motorsport writers and escapes to cover Formula Ford 1600 races whenever possible.