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Yuki Tsunoda Solid in 1st Practice Session for the Japanese Grand Prix

The RB driver will be bidding for points in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix. Compatriot Ayumu Iwasa gets first F1 experience in the first practice session.

Yuki Tsunoda had the fourth-fastest time in the rain-shortened second practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday, April 5 that saw many of the top drivers unable to record a flying lap.

It was a quiet start to the hour-long session at the 5.807-kilometer Suzuka Circuit in Mie Prefecture as many teams opted to stay in their garages while a light rain fell.

RB driver Tsunoda was the first to put in a timed lap with an effort of 1 minute, 40.946 seconds. That capped a solid day that saw him finish ninth fastest in the morning session.

Japanese Grand Prix
Fans hold up a sign in support of RB's Yuki Tsunoda in the stands during practice. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

"It was a positive first day for us," Tsunoda said. "I think we started good in FP1, finishing top 10, showing that the pace is there … it's only Friday, so I'm looking forward to giving it my all."

Tsunoda is coming off his best finish this season when he placed seventh at the Australian Grand Prix on March 24 and is hoping to finish in the points in Sunday's race.

Japanese Grand Prix
McLaren's Oscar Piastri in action during practice at the Japanese Grand Prix. (Issei Kato/REUTERS)

Piastri Has the Fastest Timed Lap in Final Practice Session

McLaren driver Oscar Piastri set the best timed lap of 1:34.725 in the final practice session, 0.501 seconds faster than Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was third fastest, just over four seconds off Piastri's time.

World champion Max Verstappen did not venture out during the second session, nor did his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen, who won the first two races of the season, was first in the morning session as he bids to return to the top of the podium after failing to finish the race in Australia.

The Aston Martin pair of Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll, Alpine's Pierre Gasly and Mercedes' George Russell were also among the drivers that stayed in the garage in the afternoon.

Japanese Grand Prix
Ayumu Iwasa participates in his first Formula One practice. (KYODO)

Iwasa Makes F1 Debut in Japanese Grand Prix Practice

Japanese driver Ayumu Iwasa made his F1 debut in the early practice session.

Driving for RB, the 22-year-old Iwasa clocked a time of 1:32.103, 16th fastest out of 20 drivers. His time was just 0.9 seconds shy of Tsunoda's top lap in the same session.

"There were no issues today and I was able to get a good feeling from the car," Iwasa said. "I was able to build up the pace quicker than expected, which was positive."

Iwasa was fourth in last year's F2 standings, taking three checkered flags and three further podiums across the season, along with one pole position.

He made the move to the Japan-based Super Formula Championship for 2024. Iwasa scored points in his debut at the Suzuka opener on March 11.

Japanese Grand Prix
RB's reserve driver Ayumu Iwasa is seen before practice. (Issei Kato/REUTERDS)

The Japanese Grand Prix is the fourth race of the F1 season following races in Bahrain on March 2, Saudi Arabia on March 9 and Australia two weeks ago.

Although the race was traditionally held in autumn, F1 officials decided to move it to April to shorten travel distances.

Qualifying for Sunday's race is on Saturday.

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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