Japanese GP: Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 in FP1

Valtteri Bottas set the pace as Mercedes dominated the opening practice session for Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Japanese GP: Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 in FP1

Bottas edged his teammate Lewis Hamilton by less than a tenth, with Sebastian Vettel the best of the Ferraris but almost one second off the pace in third.

Mercedes started the session with a seven-lap run on medium tyres as most teams sought to make the most of the dry track running.

Saturday’s final hour-long practice and qualifying sessions have been cancelled out of precaution amid the threat of Typhoon Hagibis. That has left teams with only Friday’s 90-minute sessions to prepare, and FP2 is at risk of being compromised by rain.

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Hamilton set the early pace on the initial runs on mediums, posting a 1m30.832s, although by the halfway point of the session Bottas had moved to the front on a 1m30.524s.

In the second half of FP1 teams switched to soft-tyre running, with Ferrari the first to do so.
That allowed Vettel to hold top spot, briefly, but his 1m29.720s was quickly eclipsed by both Mercedes drivers.

Hamilton toppled Vettel with a 1m28.807s before Bottas went even faster, setting a 1m28.731s.
No further improvements left the Mercedes duo well clear as only Vettel managed a time within a second of the leader.

Charles Leclerc was fourth-fastest in the other Ferrari, just under two tenths slower than Vettel and a similar margin clear of Max Verstappen in the lead Red Bull.

Verstappen’s early pace was not as strong as expected for the home race of Red Bull engine partner Honda, with teammate Alex Albon three tenths slower in sixth.

They were not far clear of the leading midfield cars, which were headed by Carlos Sainz. The McLaren driver finished the session seventh, 1.9s slower than Bottas, and just ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

Lance Stroll backed up teammate Perez in ninth, with Lando Norris completing the top 10 in the second McLaren.

Nico Hulkenberg was only 13th in the best of the upgraded Renaults, which were completing aero assessments through FP1.

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F1 debutant Naoki Yamamoto was a solid 17th and only 0.1s slower than regular Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat.

The Honda-backed reigning Super Formula and SUPER GT champion completed 30 laps, more than anyone, on his maiden grand prix weekend appearance at his home race. Pierre Gasly will reclaim his Toro Rosso seat for FP2. 

Session results:

Cla # Driver Chassis Engine Laps Time Gap
1 77 Finland Valtteri Bottas
Mercedes Mercedes 26 1'28.731
2 44 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton
Mercedes Mercedes 25 1'28.807 0.076
3 5 Germany Sebastian Vettel
Ferrari Ferrari 26 1'29.720 0.989
4 16 Monaco Charles Leclerc
Ferrari Ferrari 20 1'29.912 1.181
5 33 Netherlands Max Verstappen
Red Bull Honda 22 1'30.046 1.315
6 23 Thailand Alex Albon
Red Bull Honda 24 1'30.375 1.644
7 55 Spain Carlos Sainz Jr.
McLaren Renault 21 1'30.702 1.971
8 11 Mexico Sergio Perez
Racing Point Mercedes 21 1'30.810 2.079
9 18 Canada Lance Stroll
Racing Point Mercedes 27 1'30.959 2.228
10 4 United Kingdom Lando Norris
McLaren Renault 24 1'31.001 2.270
11 8 France Romain Grosjean
Haas Ferrari 25 1'31.283 2.552
12 7 Finland Kimi Raikkonen
Alfa Romeo Ferrari 27 1'31.307 2.576
13 27 Germany Nico Hulkenberg
Renault Renault 29 1'31.426 2.695
14 3 Australia Daniel Ricciardo
Renault Renault 25 1'31.563 2.832
15 20 Denmark Kevin Magnussen
Haas Ferrari 22 1'31.785 3.054
16 26 Russian Federation Daniil Kvyat
Toro Rosso Honda 23 1'31.920 3.189
17 38 Japan Naoki Yamamoto
Toro Rosso Honda 30 1'32.018 3.287
18 63 United Kingdom George Russell
Williams Mercedes 23 1'32.80 4.069
19 88 Poland Robert Kubica
Williams Mercedes 27 1'33.484 4.753
20 99 Italy Antonio Giovinazzi
Alfa Romeo Ferrari 4 1'36.887 8.156
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