Suzuka [Japan], September 22 (ANI): Max Verstappen and Red Bull returned to their pace-setting form in the opening practice session in Japan, as the Dutch racer established the early pace in the first practise session to easily lead rivals Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
Verstappen took the lead as the drivers departed as soon as the lights flashed green to begin the weekend's racing, as Red Bull sought to get back on track quickly following their disappointing performance in Singapore.
In addition, the teams would test the updated C2 tyre during this session in preparation for the upcoming season. This meant that instead of the customary 13, all drivers would receive two extra sets of tyres, and all teams would use the prototype tyre for the session.
Verstappen took the lead after the first 20 minutes of racing; his pace of 1 minute, 32.442 seconds on the prototype tyre was 0.724 seconds quicker than Fernando Alonso, who came in second.
Then, a rush of laps on the soft tyre came in, with Verstappen once more setting the benchmark time. With Sainz behind by 0.626 seconds, he finished first in first practice with a lap time of 1m 31.647s.
Charles Leclerc, who put two Ferraris in the top four even though he was three-tenths slower than teammate Sainz, was passed by Norris, who jumped Leclerc to finish third fastest for McLaren. Yuki Tsunoda, a fan favourite at home, performed well and finished fifth for AlphaTauri.
Alonso finished sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of Oscar Piastri, who had just extended his contract with McLaren, Alex Albon's Williams, and Liam Lawson's AlphaTauri.
After missing the Singapore Grand Prix due to safety precautions following his incident in qualifying, Lance Stroll was back on the track and driving for Aston Martin. He was ahead of Sergio Perez, driving for the second Red Bull, who was running in 11th place. (ANI)