Max Verstappen remained comfortably at the top of the times during second practice for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
The Dutchman reduced the benchmark time by a whole second in the second hour of running to set a best time of 1:30.688s. Although his advantage was halved, Verstappen remained 0.3s clear of the pack.
Charles Leclerc had trailed Carlos Sainz by three-tenths in FP1 but emerged ahead to become Verstappen’s nearest challenge; Lando Norris’ McLaren split the two Ferraris.
Mercedes has refrained from running the Soft tyre in the opening practice session, but George Russell utilised the grippiest rubber this weekend to classify fifth. However, team-mate Lewis Hamilton wound up 14th overall, 1.1s off the pace, in his W14 car.
Sergio Perez’s struggles at Suzuka continued in the second of the Red Bulls. Having missed out on a place in the top half in the first hour, the Mexican was only ninth in FP2, a whole second adrift of Verstappen.
Ahead of Perez, both Fernando Alonso and Alex Albon ended inside the top 10 for the second consecutive session. Oscar Piastri, fitted with the full extent of McLaren’s upgrades this weekend, was eighth.
Valtteri Bottas provided some promise for Alfa Romeo by setting the 10th fastest time. Zhou Guanyu looked set to be sidelined by a technical issue, but the Italian marque was able to get his car back out for a late run.
Neither Alpine managed to haul itself into the top half, with Esteban Ocon 12th behind Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin and Pierre Gasly clocking the second-slowest time.
Matters were made worse for the Enstone squad when Gasly went into the barrier at the Degner 2 corner, leaving the team with a hefty repair job ahead of tomorrow.
The session was red-flagged and the teams were informed it would not resume with only a handful of minutes remaining.
The same applied to Haas pace-wise, who had Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen classified 13th and 17th respectively.
AlphaTauri enjoyed an encouraging opening hour with both cars inside the top 10, but Yuki Tsunoda was unable to replicate his earlier pace and slumped to 18th.
While Liam Lawson was three places ahead of the Japanese racer, only three-hundredths separated the two, with Zhou and Magnussen splitting the AlphaTauri pair.
Logan Sargeant was slowest of all on his maiden trip to the Suzuka circuit, almost eight-tenths adrift of Albon’s time that placed the Anglo-Thai racer seventh.