Sebastian Vettel has ended the first practice session at the Suzuka Circuit on top of the timesheets. The German's fastest time was a 1:29.166, over two tenths up on championship rival Lewis Hamilton, who finished up in second place.
There was a threat of rain lingering around the whole session, with some drops appearing throughout the duration of the ninety minutes. With just five minutes remaining, the clouds began to let go which brought the cars back into the garage for an early finish.
There was a heavy crash for Carlos Sainz with half an hour remaining on the clock. Rounding the hairpin of Turn 11, the 23-year-old lost the car under acceleration, getting too much onto the exit kerb. Before the collision, it was revealed that Sainz will receive a twenty-grid place penalty for this weekend's race.
Daniel Ricciardo was third, meaning three different constructors filled out the first three spots on the timesheets. Kimi Raikkonen was fourth, just under half a second behind his teammate Sebastian Vettel. Raikkonen's compatriot Valtteri Bottas was fifth.
Max Verstappen followed the two Finn's, with his time being well down on the pace set by Vettel. Esteban Ocon was seventh, leading the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg. Romain Grosjean showed some promising pace for Haas, ending the session in ninth.
It wasn't all clockwork for Haas however, as Kevin Magnussen was told to return the pits with caution in the remaining minutes, his engineer warning him not to change gear. He came home in eleventh, behind Stoffel Vandoorne who rounded out the top ten.
Fernando Alonso was twelfth, with Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll trailing the double-world champion. Jolyon Palmer, who will be departing from Renault at the end of the season, was fifteenth, seven-tenths down on his teammate's fastest time.
Felipe Massa was next in sixteenth, ahead of the two Toro Rosso's of Sainz and Pierre Gasly. The Sauber's of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson backed up the field, ending the session in nineteenth and twentieth.
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