McLaren's Lewis Hamilton led the way at the end of a quiet first practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.
In dry and sunny conditions at Fuji, Hamilton beat title rival Felipe Massa (Ferrari) to first position by 0.153 seconds, with their respective teammates Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen completing the top four.
The session got off to a leisurely start, with only home team Toyota coming out to entertain the fans early on.
Raikkonen was the first of the major contenders to emerge, setting his first flying lap half an hour into the session, although a lock-up and the need to get around Rubens Barrichello's Honda on his first lap meant he needed two attempts to claim first place.
The Finn briefly relinquished the top spot to Hamilton shortly afterwards, but moved back ahead before the end of his run as the McLaren lost time with a trip over the Turn 1 run-off area.
Hamilton took charge when he rejoined 20 minutes later, lapping in 1:19.062 to beat Raikkonen by three tenths of a second.
Massa then leapt to second, just 0.001 seconds behind Hamilton, but that remarkably close situation only lasted a few moments before Hamilton improved to a 1:18.910 - which would stand as the best lap of the morning as no-one gained time on the final runs.
Kovalainen improved to third on his second run, with Raikkonen falling to fourth as his early time proved to be his best of the session.
Fernando Alonso (Renault) was the main challenger to McLaren and Ferrari all morning and duly ended up fifth, ahead of his teammate Nelson Piquet.
Toro Rosso continued their recent strong form with Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais in seventh and ninth positions, split by Robert Kubica's BMW.
Local favourite Kazuki Nakajima languished at the foot of the times until the closing moments, when he leapt up to 10th for Williams.
His improvement edged Adrian Sutil's Force India out of the top ten, as the German showed promising form at the track where he scored his only point to date last year.
Circuit owners Toyota had a disappointing start to the weekend, with early pace-setters Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock ultimately dropping to 15th and 18th respectively.
The session saw very little incident bar a few trips across the ample asphalt run-off areas and a half spin at Turn 10 by BMW's Nick Heidfeld.
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:18.910 + 23 2. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:19.063 + 0.153 24 3. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes (B) 1:19.279 + 0.369 20 4. Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 1:19.399 + 0.489 31 5. Alonso Renault (B) 1:19.473 + 0.563 30 6. Piquet Renault (B) 1:19.743 + 0.833 35 7. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:20.121 + 1.211 30 8. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) 1:20.160 + 1.250 26 9. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 1:20.182 + 1.272 34 10. Nakajima Williams-Toyota (B) 1:20.217 + 1.307 25 11. Sutil Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:20.288 + 1.378 26 12. Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 1:20.350 + 1.440 28 13. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:20.620 + 1.710 24 14. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) 1:20.628 + 1.718 23 15. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:20.657 + 1.747 33 16. Barrichello Honda (B) 1:20.753 + 1.843 32 17. Button Honda (B) 1:20.769 + 1.859 27 18. Glock Toyota (B) 1:20.823 + 1.913 37 19. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) 1:20.905 + 1.995 24 20. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari (B) 1:21.014 + 2.104 28 All timing unofficial