Japanese GP: Alonso fastest in wet first F1 practice at Suzuka
Alpine’s Fernando Alonso topped the times ahead of Ferrari pair Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in a wet first practice session for Formula 1’s 2022 Japanese Grand Prix.
Heavy rain in the 30 minutes leading up to the one-hour session at Suzuka meant no cars headed out when the pitlane opened, even though the precipitation had stopped coming down by the time the green exit light came on.
Kevin Magnussen became the first driver to head out after five minutes and he was so joined by home hero Yuki Tsunoda – although neither driver completed a timed lap, with Tsunoda reporting “a couple of rivers” on the track at the end of the first sector.
Nicholas Latifi, Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll also ventured out towards the end of the opening 15 minutes, but it was only the Haas driver that stayed out to set a time. Schumacher’s 1m52.237s therefore established the benchmark at 1m52.37s, set using the full wet tyres.
They were soon joined by more cars, with Leclerc saying he thought conditions would soon be suitable for intermediates.
His teammate Carlos Sainz beat Schumacher’s time with his first flier on a 1m49.952s, before Leclerc, following a few seconds behind on the road, swept into first with a 1m49.103s.
The Ferraris continued to circulate and post quicker times on the full wets – first with Leclerc’s 1m38.104s and Sainz, who had complained of hearing a strange sound from his engine, which he thought might be coming from the turbo, forged ahead on a 1m47.758s.
As has become a near-trademark move for Verstappen in FP1s this year, he immediately moved to the head of the times with his first flier, a 1m44.059s.
Bottas and Ocon also then slotted in ahead of the Ferrari drivers using the green-walled rubber, as did Singapore winner Perez – albeit 2.886s behind his teammate, who had by then had completed a second flier to improve the best time to a 1m43.362s.
Ocon’s second flying lap then put him ahead on a 1m43.022s, before the rain returned and the spray increased around the 3.6-mile lap.
But that did not yet stop the times from improving, with the Ferrari drivers now on the inters and flying as the final 20 minutes approached. Leclerc moved back ahead on a 1m42.634s that featured a massive slide nearly off the exit kerbs coming out of the second Degner corner, before Sainz beat that with a 1m42.563s.
Then came Alonso, who blitzed his way to the quickest times in the opening two sectors (Sainz kept the quickest final sector) and the top spot on a 1m42.248s.
The conditions worsening in the final 15 minutes meant several drivers had off-track moments, including the Ferraris. Sainz ran on to the runoff at the Spoon curve, while Leclerc slid over the kerbs between the Degners on one lap before skating fully into the gravel at that point on his next tour.
Leclerc returned to the full wet tyres for one final lap, but he soon joined the rest of his colleagues back in the pits.
Alfa Romeo pair Zhou Guanyu and Bottas led a mass final exploration out in the final couple of minutes, but no drivers improved their times on the full wets, with Bottas sliding off into the runoff at 130R.
The 10 drivers that did go back out – including the Ferrari pair – had instead been sent out to complete practice starts in the wet on the main straight, as is typical for any practice session.
That left the final order behind the top three as Ocon, Magnussen, Verstappen, Schumacher and Lando Norris, the McLaren driver having to pit after getting an engine warning notice during the early laps.
Bottas and Perez rounded out the top 10, the gap to the top spot nearly two seconds.
The other driver to have a trip into the gravel was Latifi, the Williams driver locking up and sliding off at low speed at the Hairpin just after 30 minutes had been completed.
The wet weather is predicted to persist across the first day of F1 action at Suzuka since 2019.
Japanese GP FP1 times:
|6||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||4||1'43.362||1.114||0.104||202.252|
|9||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||13||1'43.969||1.721||0.080||201.071|
|10||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||4||1'44.234||1.986||0.265||200.560|
|11||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||15||1'44.429||2.181||0.195||200.185|
|14||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||10||1'44.570||2.322||0.012||199.915|
|20||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||8||1'48.090||5.842||1.898||193.405|
|View full results|
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