Max Verstappen set a milestone with the fastest time in the second training for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, as he seems to want to win his third consecutive Formula 1 title.
Red Bull’s Verstappen, who leads teammate and closest rival Sergio Perez in the championship by 151 points, was last at the Suzuka circuit in dry conditions.
He set a fastest lap of 1 minute 30.688 seconds and finished 0.320 seconds faster than second-placed Charles Leclerc of Ferrari.
Verstappen cannot win the title on Sunday, but a favorable result could give him a chance to seal the deal at the Qatar Grand Prix next month.
The Dutchman wants to recover from a disappointing fifth place in Singapore, which ended his record run of ten consecutive victories.
He made his intentions clear from the start of the day and finished the first practice session fastest ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
And in the second session there was no delay. He briefly relinquished top spot to Leclerc before switching to new tires and regaining top spot.
Norris had the third fastest time with 1min 31.152sec.
Alpine’s Pierre Gasly crashed with just minutes of the session remaining.
Gasly was unhurt, but his front wing was badly damaged after hitting the barriers.
“Locked up, sorry about that,” he said over the team radio.
Sainz, who won in Singapore last week, finished fourth, followed by George Russell of Mercedes and Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin.
Perez finished ninth, over a second behind Verstappen.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton finished 14th in a tough performance for Mercedes.
Haas’ Kevin Magnussen had a near miss with Sainz in turn two, prompting the Spanish driver to give a sarcastic thumbs up in response.
Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu suffered a hydraulic leak late in the session.
Lance Stroll returned to action after missing the Singapore race following a huge crash in qualifying that destroyed his Aston Martin.