Max Verstappen was on an instant mission to put his and Red Bull's Singapore Grand Prix defeat behind them as he dominated opening practice for this weekend's Formula 1 race in Japan.
> Verstappen fastest by comfortable margin throughout
> Singapore winner Sainz his nearest rival
> McLaren competitive again
> Both AlphaTauris in top 10
Verstappen was fastest throughout the serious running, initially with a 1m32.597s on the experimental version of the relatively hard C2 tyre that Pirelli is letting teams trial today. It is designed to offer more grip than the current version and fit in better between the C1 and C3.
Once onto softs, Verstappen got down to a 1m31.647s that was 0.626s faster than the best effort of nearest rival and Singapore GP winner Carlos Sainz's Ferrari. Sainz had begun his weekend with the unusual experience of getting a face full of flow-vis paint from the McLaren he was following out of the Suzuka pitlane.
Ferrari - which has brought a new floor for this weekend - completed the top three until the final moments, when McLaren came off the experimental C2s for the first time in the session and gave Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri softs. Norris jumped to third, pushing Charles Leclerc down a place, with Piastri going seventh.
AlphaTauri got off to a strong start as Yuki Tsunoad went fifth quickest on his and engine supplier Honda's home ground. Team-mate Liam Lawson - who knows this track well from his Super Formula campaign - was ninth.
Fernando Alonso's Aston Martin, Piastri and Alex Albon's Williams sat between them, with Alonso's team-mate Lance Stroll completing the top 10.
There was again a substantial gap between the two Red Bulls, Sergio Perez nearly one and a half seconds behind Verstappen in 11th and skipping over the chicane run-off late on. There have been suggestions the two Red Bulls are running different floor designs again this weekend.
Mercedes did not show its hand, staying on mediums for the whole session and sitting 13th and 16th.