Verstappen eases to P1 at Suzuka
After Verstappen and the Austrian team lost their winning record to Ferarri and Carlos Sainz at the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend, all eyes were on the first free practice session at the famous Suzuka Circuit to see if the Red Bull would return to their dominant ways, or whether the chasing teams of Ferrari and Mercedes could close the gap once again.
The Japanese track is well-known worldwide for its layout, made of a thrilling sequence of fast left-hand turns and some iconic corners like the Spoon Curve and the famous 130R, making Suzuka one of the most complete circuits on the calendar, where aerodynamics, mechanics and power unit all make the difference around a single lap. Over the race, the tyres (especially the fronts) are extremely stressed, another factor that teams must manage. Finding the correct set-up is, therefore, crucial to have a clean weekend, so let’s see which choices have been made by the teams this year.
After last week's disappointing showing for Verstappen and Red Bull, the Dutchman laid down a statement of intent. He led the grid out from the pits as the session started and then constantly set the fastest laps throughout the whole of FP1.
As all teams and drivers changed between all tyre compounds, including some Pirelli test tyres, Verstappen and Red Bull never left P1 throughout the session, highlighting their pace and their hopes to return to winning ways.
Ferrari's new upgrade gives them more pace
Ferrari took their time to get into the session, but once they strapped on the red-walled soft tyres to their car with their newly upgraded floor, they catapulted themselves up the leaderboard, with Sainz and Leclerc both finding the pace to finish P2 and P4, respectively.
Splitting the two Prancing Horses was the Papaya-coloured McLaren of Lando Norris, as the young Brit will be looking to secure back-to-back podiums. Home favourite Yuki Tsunoda took a fantastic P5, delighting the home fans at Suzuka.
On the other hand, the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell struggled to find any pace to really challenge Red Bull and Ferrari, but they did not run the soft tyres at any part of the session.