Fastest on all Pirelli tire compounds, Max Verstappen was untouchable in opening practice for the 2023 Japanese GP Formula 1 race at Suzuka.
–by Mark Cipolloni–
Fastest on the Hard Pirellis. Fastest of the test C2 Pirellis. Fastest on the soft Pirellis. Verstappen ultimately turned a lap of 1m31.647s to beat the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz Jr. by a stout 0.626s.
Verstappen’s time of a 1m 32.442s on the prototype C2 tire was 0.724s faster than second-placed Fernando Alonso.
Verstappen was quick right out of the box, setting the fastest lap of the session in his #1 Red Bull Honda on his first hot lap and never being headed after that.
Lando Norris was 3rd quick for McLaren, 0.745s behind.
Charles Leclerc, who continues to get schooled by his Ferrari teammate Sainz, was 4th in the 2nd Ferrari.
Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top-5 for a resurgent AlphaTauri.
Fernando Alonso wound up sixth for Aston Martin, ahead of Oscar Piastri – fresh from signing his new contract extension with McLaren – the Williams of Alex Albon, and the AlphaTauri of Liam Lawson.
How good is Verstappen? His teammate Sergio Perez was 1.4s slower on the same tires in the same car.
Rumor has it that F1 begged Red Bull and Verstappen to allow someone else to win in Singapore. Having obliged, they were back on top in Suzuka.
Sebastian Vettel praised Max Verstappen’s excellent 2023 season
“But it’s really you should be lucky that you’re able to witness history in the making. And what Max pulled off this year is amazing.”
“His car is amazing, but even more so it’s his efforts. He didn’t do a mistake, so you can’t give him enough credit.”
Vettel believed Max could not be praised enough for everything that he had achieved.
“I think people don’t like watching the same driver win.”
“There’s Max today. There was Lewis. There was myself. There was Mika [Hakkinen] at the time, and there was Michael [Schumacher] obviously, throughout a long time.”
“I think it’s part of the sport. But it’s really you should be lucky that you’re able to witness history in the making. And what Max pulled off this year is amazing. His car is amazing, but even more so it’s his efforts. He didn’t do a mistake, so you can’t give him enough credit.”
Red Bull looks to sew up Constructor’s title
Having won all but one of the 15 grands prix this season, Milton Keynes finds itself in a position to wrap up the constructors’ championship this weekend with fully six races still to run.
The mathematics of the situation are simple.
Red Bull Racing leads Mercedes by 308 points and Ferrari by 332 points. There will be 309 points remaining after the Japanese Grand Prix.
Therefore, Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez need outscore the German marque by only one point and prevent Ferrari from outscoring it by more than 23 points to seal the deal.
Japanese GP Practice 1 Results
|1||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:31.647||+0.000s||25|
|3||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||1:32.392||+0.745s||24|
|5||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri Honda||1:32.597||+0.950s||21|
|6||14||Fernando Alonso||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:32.650||+1.003s||23|
|7||81||Oscar Piastri||Mclaren Mercedes||1:32.713||+1.066s||26|
|8||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||1:32.991||+1.344s||24|
|9||40||Liam Lawson||AlphaTauri Honda||1:33.005||+1.358s||28|
|10||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||1:33.040||+1.393s||17|
|11||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Honda||1:33.043||+1.396s||25|
|12||10||Pierre Gasly||Alpine Renault||1:33.129||+1.482s||23|
|14||27||Nico Hulkenberg||Haas Ferrari||1:33.448||+1.801s||24|
|15||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||1:33.516||+1.869s||22|
|17||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:33.860||+2.213s||24|
|18||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||1:33.975||+2.328s||23|
|19||2||Logan Sargeant||Williams Mercedes||1:34.212||+2.565s||27|
|20||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||1:34.831||+3.184s||23|