Carlos Sainz Jr. made a strong start to his Japanese Grand Prix weekend by finishing at the top of the timesheets as rain washed out by majority of the opening practice session at Suzuka.
Heavy rain overnight continued throughout the morning, forcing the early runners in FP1 to venture out on the wet tire and take their explorative laps carefully to avoid losing control and sliding off the track.
As the session wore on, conditions cleared up enough to allow the drivers to switch to the intermediate tire and post some quicker lap times. Although many chose to remain in the pits for the entirety of the session, some of the teams took advantage of the wet conditions to complete some test running.
Toro Rosso was the first team to send its drivers out for a flying lap run with 30 minutes remaining, and it was Sainz who managed to finish in P1 with a fastest lap of 1:49.434 ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat by half a second.
Nico Rosberg finished third for Mercedes as he switched back to his updated engine from Monza, allowing him to finish 0.5 seconds ahead of Singapore winner Sebastian Vettel in fourth. Lewis Hamilton finished fifth in the second Mercedes, and was followed by Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen.
Williams lack of wet weather pace was clear to see once again as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas could only finish eighth and tenth respectively. Only 12 drivers opted to head out on track and post a time.
With conditions improving towards the end of FP1, the drivers will be hoping for this to improve ahead of FP2 later in the day. You can watch second practice live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1am ET on Friday morning.