Verstappen tops Japanese GP FP2 as Gasly crashes

Max Verstappen is fastest so far in F1 Japanese Grand Prix practice. Image: Charniaux/XPB Images

Max Verstappen is fastest so far in F1 Japanese Grand Prix practice. Image: Charniaux/XPB Images

Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen has set the pace again in Free Practice 2 for the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, while Alpine’s Pierre Gasly crashed late in the piece.

With less than three minutes to go, Gasly pinched the inside-front brake at Suzuka’s Degner 2 corner and understeered off the road before impacting the barriers are relatively slow speed.

The session did not restart and hence Verstappen was locked into a sweep of Friday practice, with a 1:30.688s seeing him prevail by 0.320s in the late-afternoon hit-out.

Charles Leclerc, who had joined team-mate Carlos Sainz in running with Ferrari’s new floor after just the Spaniard had it fitted to his car for FP1, ended up second, ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris at another 0.144s off the pace.

Valtteri Bottas was quickest out of the box with a 1:33.163s in an Alfa Romeo Sauber carrying the prototype Pirelli tyre compound, which is somewhat softer than the C2 designated as the medium for the weekend.

Verstappen had started on the C3 which is the soft compound for Round 17 of the season and reset the benchmark with a 1:31.377s on his first flyer, during which he got a tear-off snagged on his headrest.

No one was close to the Dutchman until Leclerc put in a 1:31.708s on a medium-shod Ferrari just after the quarter-hour mark, with Verstappen unable to improve on a second run on softs.

Norris then clocked a 1:31.152s to go quickest, before he was usurped by Leclerc on a 1:31.008s.

Verstappen did jump back to the top on his third run, however, with a 1:30.688s which moved him more than three tenths clear of Leclerc.

McLaren, meanwhile, was working through a programme which included back-to-backing different front wings on the cars of Norris and Oscar Piastri, while Zhou Guanyu would end up in the Alfa Romeo Sauber garage with a brake problem.

The field had moved into longer running by the time Gasly had his prang, which brought a slightly premature end to proceedings.

Behind Verstappen, Leclerc, and Norris, was Sainz in fourth, from George Russell (Mercedes), Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), Alexander Albon (Williams), Piastri, Sergio Perez (Red Bull), and Bottas.

Free Practice 3 starts on Saturday at 11:30 local time/12:30 AEST.

CLICK HERE for Free Practice 2 results

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