Japanese GP: Bottas leads Mercedes one-two in first practice

Scott Mitchell
Bottas fastest as Mercedes dominates practice one
Bottas fastest as Mercedes dominates practice one

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

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

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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 as a precaution amid the threat of Typhoon Hagibis.

That has left teams with only Friday's 90-minute sessions to prepare, and practice two is at risk of being compromised by rain.

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 all teams switched to soft-tyre running - though Ferrari had used these tyres from the outset and still not beaten Mercedes' medium-tyre pace.

When the concerted qualifying-style laps began, Vettel held 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.

There were no further improvements at the front and the Mercedes duo stayed 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 team-mate Alex Albon three tenths slower in sixth.

They were not far clear of the leading midfield cars, which were headed by Carlos Sainz Jr.

The McLaren driver finished the session seventh, 1.9s slower than Bottas, and just ahead of the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

Bottas fastest as Mercedes dominates practice one
Bottas fastest as Mercedes dominates practice one

That was despite Sainz's car immediately grinding to a halt just beyond the pit exit as he set off at the start of the session, and having to be brought back to the paddock by the marshals. The issue was quickly rectified.

Lance Stroll backed up team-mate 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 the session.

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 second practice.

Antonio Giovinazzi was unable to set a representative time and ended up slowest, having reported a problem with his Alfa Romeo early in the session and been instructed to drive back to the pits without changing gear.

Practice one times

Pos

Driver

Car

Time

Gap

Laps

1

Valtteri Bottas

Mercedes

1m28.731s

-

26

2

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes

1m28.807s

0.076s

25

3

Sebastian Vettel

Ferrari

1m29.720s

0.989s

26

4

Charles Leclerc

Ferrari

1m29.912s

1.181s

20

5

Max Verstappen

Red Bull/Honda

1m30.046s

1.315s

22

6

Alexander Albon

Red Bull/Honda

1m30.375s

1.644s

24

7

Carlos Sainz Jr.

McLaren/Renault

1m30.702s

1.971s

21

8

Sergio Perez

Racing Point/Mercedes

1m30.810s

2.079s

21

9

Lance Stroll

Racing Point/Mercedes

1m30.959s

2.228s

27

10

Lando Norris

McLaren/Renault

1m31.001s

2.270s

24

11

Romain Grosjean

Haas/Ferrari

1m31.283s

2.552s

25

12

Kimi Raikkonen

Alfa Romeo/Ferrari

1m31.307s

2.576s

27

13

Nico Hulkenberg

Renault

1m31.426s

2.695s

29

14

Daniel Ricciardo

Renault

1m31.563s

2.832s

25

15

Kevin Magnussen

Haas/Ferrari

1m31.785s

3.054s

22

16

Daniil Kvyat

Toro Rosso/Honda

1m31.920s

3.189s

23

17

Naoki Yamamoto

Toro Rosso/Honda

1m32.018s

3.287s

30

18

George Russell

Williams/Mercedes

1m32.800s

4.069s

23

19

Robert Kubica

Williams/Mercedes

1m33.484s

4.753s

27

20

Antonio Giovinazzi

Alfa Romeo/Ferrari

1m36.887s

8.156s

4


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