Max Verstappen took away any suggestions Red Bull had been adversely affected by the FIA's latest technical directive with an ominous performance in first practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.
A dramatic drop off in pace in Singapore last weekend, in conjunction with the enforcement of TD018 regarding flexi-wings, had led to queries over whether Red Bull had been affected by the directive, though Team Principal Christian Horner strongly denied this and instead insisted the outfit had just endured a tough event.
Dutchman Verstappen confirmed Horner's rhetoric by setting a benchmark lap time of a 1:31.647 to finish 0.626 seconds faster than Ferrari's Carlos Sainz in the first session of the weekend at Suzuka.
Lando Norris slotted himself into third late in the session to position McLaren in the prospective fight for a podium come Sunday.
Result Free practice 1 - Japanese
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Each driver was afforded two extra sets of tyres owing to a Pirelli prototype tyre test as focus begins to shift towards next season.
The unmarked test tyre was essentially a modified Medium, with the two sets able to be used across both of Friday's practice sessions.
Singapore Grand Prix winner Sainz was given a face full of McLaren flow-viz to start the session before Haas' Kevin Magnussen took an early trip across the runoff at the final chicane.
But whilst Oscar Piasrti clouted a kerb at the first Degner midway through the hour, the McLaren driver was able to hold onto the subsequent slide whilst providing the most drama in a largely straightforward session.
Verstappen led Sainz and Norris at the top of the timesheets whilst AlphaTauri's home hero Yuki Tsunoda ensured five drivers would be within a second of each other at the end of proceedings, finishing just shy of Charles Leclerc's time.
Fernando Alonso was sixth fastest for Aston Martin ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris and Williams driver Alex Albon, who again made an impressive start to a race weekend.
Liam Lawson continued his fine form to finish ninth in the second AlphaTauri ahead of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez, who was the second driver to miss the final chicane.
Pierre Gasly was the lead Alpine in 12th whilst George Russell mustered only 13th, though his best lap was set on a set of Medium tyres.
Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg was next ahead of the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton, who also ran just the test tyre and Mediums, with the same true for Alfa Romeo's Valtteri Bottas.
Magnussen was 18th, Williams' Logan Sargeant 19th and Zhou Guanyu 20th having competed an extended test programme.