Practice report

F1 Japanese GP: Verstappen dominant in FP1 as Red Bull hunt constructors' crown

Max Verstappen blew the opposition away to lead FP1 for Formula 1’s 2023 Japanese Grand Prix by 0.6-seconds for Red Bull ahead of Singapore winner Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull

Nearly a week on from Red Bull’s humbling in Singapore, Verstappen utterly dominated the early stages – not only leading the pack out of the pack but heading the times from his first flier, a 1m33.719s set on the hard tyres that no one else could get anywhere near as the pack was split across the harder tyre compounds. 

This included a prototype medium compound Verstappen switched too after going quickest again on his second hards flier, his next lap after a quick trip to the pits a 1m37.597s. 

He lowered the benchmark to a 1m32.442s before pitting at the end of the one-hour session’s opening third, his gap to Fernando Alonso – now in second for Aston Martin – still solid at 0.7s, with the rest well over a second behind. 

After a spell in the pits with the rest, Sergio Perez was amongst the first of the pack to head back out on the softs, which require a slow preparation lap on the abrasive Suzuka circuit and its high-energy, demanding corners. 

After his first softs flier, Perez still trailed Verstappen’s best on the prototype mediums by 0.6s, before his world champion team-mate re-extended that gap to nearly 1.4s with his first softs effort – a 1m31.647s. 

Sainz slotted into second just after Leclerc had demoted Perez, with Alonso then splitting the Ferrari pair as the session hit its two-thirds mark and AlphaTauri driver Liam Lawson (eighth in FP1) reported light rain falling from the overcast sky. 

With the rest of the leaders back in the pits after just a sole softs flier, Leclerc stayed out and was able to re-take third with his second effort for Ferrari, albeit with a time still nearly a second off Verstappen. 

Sainz was second-fastest in FP1 at Suzuka

Sainz was second-fastest in FP1 at Suzuka

Photo by: Motorsport Images/Jake Grant

As FP1’s leaders headed to the pits to make final changes and take on fuel for race-data gathering to close out the session, several drivers made late gains. 

These included Lando Norris climbing to sixth for McLaren while still running the prototype mediums, before Yuki Tsunoda jumped ahead of the Briton and Alonso to claim fourth for AlphaTauri with a late first softs effort heading into the final 10 minutes. 

McLaren then shuffled the order behind Verstappen again with both its drivers moving to the softs for the first time in the session’s final minutes, which Oscar Piastri used to jumped from 16th to seventh behind Leclerc, Tsunoda and Alonso. 

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Norris completed his only effort on the red-walled rubber to jump to third just after the chequered flag fell, ending up 0.7s behind Verstappen. 

Those late changes dropped Perez out of the top 10 behind Alex Albon, Lawson and the returning Lance Stroll

George Russell and Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, ended up 13th and 16th but neither Mercedes driver used the softs in FP1, along with Alfa Romeo pair Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu

Complete Japanese GP FP1 Results

Driver Info
Cla Driver # Chassis Engine Laps Time Interval km/h
1 Netherlands M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1 Red Bull Red Bull 25 1'31.647   228.105
2 Spain C. Sainz Ferrari 55 Ferrari Ferrari 24 +0.626 0.626 226.558
3 United Kingdom L. Norris McLaren 4 McLaren Mercedes 24 +0.745 0.119 226.266
4 Monaco C. Leclerc Ferrari 16 Ferrari Ferrari 25 +0.927 0.182 225.821
5 Japan Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri 22 AlphaTauri Red Bull 21 +0.950 0.023 225.765
6 Spain F. Alonso Aston Martin Racing 14 Aston Martin Mercedes 23 +1.003 0.053 225.636
7 Australia O. Piastri McLaren 81 McLaren Mercedes 26 +1.066 0.063 225.482
8 Thailand A. Albon Williams 23 Williams Mercedes 24 +1.344 0.278 224.808
9 New Zealand L. Lawson AlphaTauri 40 AlphaTauri Red Bull 28 +1.358 0.014 224.775
10 Canada L. Stroll Aston Martin Racing 18 Aston Martin Mercedes 17 +1.393 0.035 224.690
11 Mexico S. Perez Red Bull Racing 11 Red Bull Red Bull 25 +1.396 0.003 224.683
12 France P. Gasly Alpine 10 Alpine Renault 23 +1.482 0.086 224.475
13 United Kingdom G. Russell Mercedes 63 Mercedes Mercedes 24 +1.663 0.181 224.040
14 Germany N. Hulkenberg Haas F1 Team 27 Haas Ferrari 24 +1.801 0.138 223.709
15 France E. Ocon Alpine 31 Alpine Renault 22 +1.869 0.068 223.546
16 United Kingdom L. Hamilton Mercedes 44 Mercedes Mercedes 22 +2.052 0.183 223.110
17 Finland V. Bottas Alfa Romeo 77 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 24 +2.213 0.161 222.727
18 Denmark K. Magnussen Haas F1 Team 20 Haas Ferrari 23 +2.328 0.115 222.454
19 United States L. Sargeant Williams 2 Williams Mercedes 27 +2.565 0.237 221.895
20 China Z. Guanyu Alfa Romeo 24 Alfa Romeo Ferrari 23 +3.184 0.619 220.446
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