Sebastian Vettel ended up fastest in the first practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend. The Ferrari driver edged out Lewis Hamilton by little more than 2 tenths of a second. Daniel Ricciardo followed up for Red Bull, 0.375s down on the pace setter.
With conditions being optimal early on, and expected to get worse as the day progressed, teams got into it quickly, resulting in lots of track action and exchanges at the top of the timesheet.
Lewis Hamilton set the early pace and topped the times before the session was interrupted by a heavy crash from Carlos Sainz. The Spanish Toro Rosso driver had gone slightly wide on the exit of Turn 11, causing him to loose rear grip on the grass and sending him head on into the barriers on the inside of the corner. The Spaniard was unhurt, but his car incurred serious damage. It would not be a surprise if the team has to replace some components and serve grid penalties. These would however not be apparent, as he already faces a 20-place grid demotion due to power unit element changes.
It was only after the interruption that Ferrari put its drivers out on the super soft tyres, enabling Vettel to go fastest and thereby improve on the official track record. Kimi Raikkonen stranded at nearly half a second of his German team mate to go 4th fastest, still ahead of Bottas and Verstappen. The latter had a bit of a moment at Spoon Curve on a hot lap, and later also encountered charge issues the prevented him from going faster.
Esteban Ocon was 7th fastest, ahead of Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Vandoorne.
The final 5 minutes saw a cloud cover the circuit with water, rendering any further improvement attempts futile.
|2||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG||1:29.377||+0.211s||29|
|3||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:29.541||+0.375s||27|
|5||77||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG||1:30.151||+0.985s||30|
|6||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer||1:30.762||+1.596s||26|
|7||31||Esteban Ocon||Force India Mercedes||1:30.899||+1.733s||22|
|9||8||Romain Grosjean||Haas Ferrari||1:31.032||+1.866s||22|
|10||2||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren Honda||1:31.202||+2.036s||24|
|11||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:31.216||+2.050s||15|
|12||14||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda||1:31.235||+2.069s||19|
|13||11||Sergio Perez||Force India Mercedes||1:31.530||+2.364s||23|
|14||18||Lance Stroll||Williams Mercedes||1:31.602||+2.436s||22|
|16||19||Felipe Massa||Williams Mercedes||1:31.912||+2.746s||20|
|17||55||Carlos Sainz||Toro Rosso||1:32.252||+3.086s||14|
|18||10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso||1:32.501||+3.335s||18|
|19||94||Pascal Wehrlein||Sauber Ferrari||1:32.897||+3.731s||29|
|20||9||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber Ferrari||1:33.397||+4.231s||28|