Japanese GP: Max Verstappen goes P1 as Williams face anxious wait after Sargeant crash

Michelle Foster
Max Verstappen in his RB20 with his steering wheel

Max Verstappen in his RB20 with his steering wheel

Max Verstappen set the pace in Friday’s opening practice for the Japanese GP ahead of Sergio Perez, but for Williams it was another FP1 with another crash.

Logan Sargeant brought out the red flags when he lost it at Dunlop, leaving Williams with an anxious wait for the car to be brought back to the garage to check the chassis as they still don’t have a spare.

Japanese Grand Prix: Max Verstappen sets the pace in FP1

In what could be the only dry session of the weekend, Esteban Ocon complained about a “dangerous” Oscar Piastri as they left their garages to begin their FP1 programmes, George Russell wasn’t happy with the pit lane queue, Lando Norris went quickest of all,and Lance Stroll trialled Aston Martin’s new upgrade kit.

With only one of the new packages available, which includes reprofiled sidepods, Aston Martin opted to bolt that onto Stroll’s car with Fernando Alonso reportedly set to receive his ahead of second practice – or, at the latest, Saturday’s final practice.

Over at Red Bull, there were early problems for Max Verstappen with an issue on the rear left of his sidepod. As his team-mate Sergio Perez joined the action, going fastest with a 1:31.8, Verstappen was stuck in the garage.

It didn’t take long for Red Bull to fix the problem with the Dutchman laying down his first timed lap 15 minutes into the session. He went ninth, 0.8s down on the P1 time that again belonged to Norris.

RB test driver Ayumu Iwasa – replacing Daniel Ricciardo for the opening practice hour – clocked a 1:34.8 putting the Japanese driver 18th on the timesheets. However, neither Stroll nor Alex Albon had set times.

And then Verstappen went quickest!

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Laying down a 1:31.4, the Dutchman pipped Norris by three tenths of a second with Alonso third at the halfway mark ahead of Perez, George Russell and Charles Leclerc. Stroll in the revised AMR24 was 11th quickest, a second off the pace.

Lewis Hamilton, the first to swap to the soft tyres, went quickest with a 1:30.5, and out came the red flags as Logan Sargeant crashed his Williams.

The American caught the end of the grass, sending his Williams spinning into the barrier nose-first at Turn 7 in a hard hit before the car spun around for a secondary hit with the rear.

“I’m sorry, man,” the Williams driver said to his team.

Back underway with 18 minutes left on the clock, the drivers raced one another for position on their out-laps with Verstappen and others swapping to the soft Pirellis. The reigning World Champion hit the front with a 1:30.0 with Perez up to second, 0.181s down.

Australian GP winner Carlos Sainz was the nearest challenger to Red Bull in third place, two tenths down on Verstappen, and finished FP1 ahead of Russell, Hamilton who split the Ferraris with Leclerc in sixth.

Iwasa was 16th fastest, his best time eight tenths down on RB team-mate Yuki Tsunoda who was up in ninth place.

Times

1 Max VERSTAPPEN 1:30.056 18 laps
2 Sergio PEREZ +0.181 18 laps
3 Carlos SAINZ +0.213 20 laps
4 George RUSSELL +0.474 18 laps
5 Lewis HAMILTON +0.487 23 laps
6 Charles LECLERC +0.502 18 laps
7 Fernando ALONSO +0.543 20 laps
8 Oscar PIASTRI +1.109 23 laps
9 Yuki TSUNODA +1.174 20 laps
10 Lando NORRIS +1.184 22 laps
11 Esteban OCON +1.879 19 laps
12 Alexander ALBON +1.887 18 laps
13 Nico HULKENBERG +1.902 19 laps
14 Valtteri BOTTAS +1.998 17 laps
15 Lance STROLL +1.999 17 laps
16 Ayumu IWASA +2.047 22 laps
17 Pierre GASLY +2.221 23 laps
18 Guanyu ZHOU +2.582 18 laps
19 Kevin MAGNUSSEN +2.747 21 laps
20 Logan SARGEANT +3.148 10 laps

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