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.

Japanese GP: Alonso fastest in wet first F1 practice at Suzuka
Listen to this article

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.

Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas were the first drivers to head out on intermediates just past the halfway mark, the first two doing so for their first laps out in FP1.

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.

Lewis Hamilton was 13th behind Daniel Ricciardo, who had to scamper across the chicane just as the rain started to fall heavily again in the closing stages.

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:

Cla Driver Chassis Laps Time Gap Interval km/h
1 Spain Fernando Alonso Alpine 7 1'42.248     204.455
2 Spain Carlos Sainz Ferrari 15 1'42.563 0.315 0.315 203.827
3 Monaco Charles Leclerc Ferrari 16 1'42.634 0.386 0.071 203.686
4 France Esteban Ocon Alpine 5 1'43.022 0.774 0.388 202.919
5 Denmark Kevin Magnussen Haas 15 1'43.258 1.010 0.236 202.455
6 Netherlands Max Verstappen Red Bull 4 1'43.362 1.114 0.104 202.252
7 Germany Mick Schumacher Haas 13 1'43.761 1.513 0.399 201.474
8 United Kingdom Lando Norris McLaren 7 1'43.889 1.641 0.128 201.226
9 Finland Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo 13 1'43.969 1.721 0.080 201.071
10 Mexico Sergio Perez Red Bull 4 1'44.234 1.986 0.265 200.560
11 China Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo 15 1'44.429 2.181 0.195 200.185
12 Australia Daniel Ricciardo McLaren 8 1'44.486 2.238 0.057 200.076
13 United Kingdom Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 6 1'44.558 2.310 0.072 199.938
14 Canada Lance Stroll Aston Martin 10 1'44.570 2.322 0.012 199.915
15 Thailand Alex Albon Williams 9 1'44.791 2.543 0.221 199.494
16 France Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri 12 1'44.878 2.630 0.087 199.328
17 Canada Nicholas Latifi Williams 11 1'45.424 3.176 0.546 198.296
18 United Kingdom George Russell Mercedes 4 1'46.103 3.855 0.679 197.027
19 Japan Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri 16 1'46.192 3.944 0.089 196.862
20 Germany Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin 8 1'48.090 5.842 1.898 193.405
shares
comments

Japanese GP practice as it happened

Japanese GP: Russell leads Mercedes 1-2 in wet second F1 practice

How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

The story of Ken Tyrrell's team How Tyrrell became a racing Rubik’s cube as it faded out of F1

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Alex Kalinuackas

Assessing Hamilton's Mercedes stint Assessing Hamilton's remarkable decade as a Mercedes F1 driver

Why new-look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

Why new-look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Jonathan Noble

Why new-look Haas is a litmus test Why new-look Haas is a litmus test for Formula 1’s new era

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Alex Kalinauckas

Assessing Wolff's Mercedes influence The Mercedes F1 pressure changes under 10 years of Toto Wolff

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

The line-up Ocon, Gasly may emulate The all-French F1 partnership that Ocon and Gasly hope to emulate

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
GP Racing

Who were the fastest F1 drivers? Who were the fastest drivers in F1 2022?

Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Adam Cooper

Why Hulkenberg is ready for return Nico Hulkenberg: Why F1's nearly man is refreshed and ready for his return

Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss

Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss

Prime
Prime
Formula 1
Jonathan Noble

Why Vasseur relishes the pressure Why Vasseur relishes 'feeling the pressure' as Ferrari's F1 boss