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Verstappen continues to set Suzuka pace


Ahead of today's second session the air temperature is 29 degrees C, while the track temperature is 40 degrees. It remains warm, overcast and even windier than earlier, with a 10% chance of rain.

In terms of updates, such as they are, Ferrari has a new Floor Body, Mercedes a new Rear Wing, McLaren a new Beam Wing and Sidepod Inlet and Aston Martin a new Front Corner.

AlphaTauri has a new Rear Wing and Rear View Mirror and Williams new Floor Fences.

Max Verstappen set the pace in this morning's session, the RB19 as phenomenal as Lewis Hamilton expected it to be.

At Red Bull, Verstappen had the new floor first introduced - then dropped - at Singapore, while Perez had the old floor, while both Ferrari drivers have a new floor.

Sainz was second quickest, albeit 06s down on the world champion, ahead of Norris, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Alonso, Piastri, Albon.

The session, like this one, saw the drivers given 2 sets of a prototype compound Pirelli is looking to introduce next year.

The lights go green and Russell leads the way, followed by Sargeant, Sainz, Stroll, Albon, Zhou and Lawson.

Again most are on the prototype tyres while there are a couple on mediums and a couple on hards.

Already, the session having barely started, drivers are jostling for position.

Of the first wave, Perez (medium) goes quickest (33.447), ahead of Albon, Sainz, Alonso, Hamilton and Norris, who are all on the protos.

Bottas (proto) goes quickest with a 33.163 as a 33.423 sees Piastri (medium) go second.

Last to post a time is Verstappen (softs), who immediately goes quickest with a 31.377, despite a pesky tear-off that got lodged in his sidepod inlet.

Norris goes second, ahead of Leclerc, Perez and Bottas, but is 0.747s off Verstappen's pace.

As drivers switch to the regular compounds, Norris (medium) goes second, ahead of Albon, Piastri and Leclerc.

Magnussen has to take avoiding action when he encounters a very slow Sainz in the opening section, the Dane making clear his frustration.

"I did a mistake in 11, I think," says Leclerc. "Yes, we've seen that," comes the reply.

Nonetheless, the Monegasque goes second with a 31.708 on the mediums, just 0.331s down on the world champion. Teammate Sainz goes third (32.085).

"There's, for sure, floor damage," reports Albon.

Hamilton and Russell follow Verstappen's example and switch to the red-banded rubber.

Russell goes third (32.054), while Hamilton aborts and Sargeant goes sixth (32.320) on the softs.

Alonso goes ninth on the mediums, as Hamilton goes sixth on the softs. Both Mercedes drivers losing out in the important opening sector.

On his next flyer Verstappen posts PBs in the final two sectors but fails to improve his overall time.

Norris (softs) goes quickest with a 31.152, as Bottas goes fourth (31.739) and Hulkenberg fifth.

Now Albon goes third on the softs (31.555), as the track continues to ramp up.

Piastri goes fourth, 0.510s down on his teammate.

Quickest in S2, Leclerc crosses the line at 31.008 to go top. Perez can only manage sixth (31.710).

As Verstappen heads out again, Sainz goes third with a 31.237.

At half-time, Tsunoda and Stroll are the only drivers yet to try the softs.

Alonso is warned that his tyres are "already hotter than we want". The Spaniard subsequently posts a 31.492 to go fifth.

Magnussen encounters yet another dawdler, this time it's Lawson.

Quickest in the first sector, PBs in S2 and S3 see Verstappen reclaim his position at the top of the timesheets with a 30.688.

Zhou rattles his fillings with a ride over the unforgiving kerbs at Degner 2.

Russell improves to 5th with a 31.328 as Stroll goes 11th on the softs and Tsunoda 17th.

"Engine braking is pushing like ****," reports Tsunoda.

As a few drivers make the switch back to mediums, Hamilton - currently 19th - heads out on fresh softs, the Briton having suffered all season getting his tyres into the right window for qualifying. A 31.829 sees him improve to 14th, though he continues to lose out in S1.

While Bottas switches back to hards, Albon opts for the prototypes.

The softs are ditched in favour of the mediums and hards as the high-fuel long runs get underway. With 15 minutes remaining all 20 drivers re on track.

Verstappen, who has only run the red-banded rubber thus far, switches to the prototypes.

A hydraulics leak appears to have brought Zhou's day to an early end.

"There's quite a bit of tyre degradation," admits Williams boss, James Vowles, "so that's going to be interesting for Sunday.

"It's to do with the temperature," he explains, "28 Degrees, normally it would be more like 19 here, so that is playing a part."

Oh dear, the session is red-flagged when Gasly goes off into the barriers at Degner 2.

With only two minutes remaining the session will not resume.

Replay shows him lock-up and head off across the kitty-litter and into the barrier.

"Locked-up, sorry for that," he tells his team.

Verstappen is quickest, ahead of Leclerc, Norris, Sainz, Russell, Alonso, Albon, Piastri, Perez and Bottas.

Stroll is eleventh, ahead of Ocon, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Lawson, Zhou, Magnussen, Tsunoda, Gasly and Sargeant.

Check out our Friday gallery from Suzuka here.


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