Lewis Hamilton set the pace in opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday after finishing nearly half-a-second clear of the rest of the field.
Hamilton, who holds a 50-point championship lead over Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, laid down an ominous marker in the first running of the weekend as Valtteri Bottas completed a Mercedesone-two.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was third ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, while Vettel finished only fifth.
Hamilton has won three of the last four races staged here in Suzuka, and the world champion again appears in impressive form.
The British driver posted a best lap of one minute and 28.691 seconds to finish 0.446 clear of Bottas, with Ricciardo nearly seven tenths adrift.
Vettel, who heads into the weekend with the championship out of his hands for the first time this year, finished nearly one second down on his title rival.
Despite his blistering pace, there was a hairy moment for Hamilton when he almost collided with the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly at the chicane.
Gasly was dawdling on the racing line, and Hamilton had to take evasive action, running off the circuit and gesticulating at the Frenchman.
Gasly was alleged to have been driving unnecessarily slowly, and was hauled in front of the stewards following the session.
There was drama for Fernando Alonso, too, after the Spaniard lost control of his McLaren at the entry of the high-speed Degner curve before he spun backwards into the gravel.
The Spaniard avoided contact with the barriers and limped back to the garage with bits of sand falling out of his McLaren.
Alonso finished 18th, while Lando Norris, the British teenager who is being promoted to McLaren’s race team next year, was last, four seconds slower than Hamilton.
Max Verstappen finished sixth for Red Bull ahead of the Force India of Esteban Ocon and Haas driver Romain Grosjean.