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What the teams said – Friday practice in Japan

Special Contributor

Becky Hart
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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Charles Leclerc of Monaco driving the (16) Ferrari SF-24 and Fernando

Red Bull

Verstappen and Perez opted to run the hard tyre in FP1, but both looked quick on the C1 rubber so it was no surprise that they jumped back to the top of the timing sheets when they bolted on the softs. The good news for the team is that Perez was shadowing his team mate all the way, and looks to have started the weekend brightly. Neither driver opted to come out at all in the disrupted FP2 session.

READ MORE: Verstappen expects ‘closer’ challenge from rivals despite 'good start' for Red Bull at Suzuka

Max Verstappen – FP1: 1:30.056, P1; FP2: No time set

“It was a good start for us today. The bounce wasn’t too far out and I felt comfortable with the car. There are still a few things to try and look at but, overall, it was a good FP1. Of course, in FP2 we couldn’t do anything, which was a shame as this means that we don’t know the long run pace, but we can’t do anything about the weather. In general, it looks like everyone is a bit closer compared to last year and I don’t expect the same kind of gaps here at this track. There are a few things that we still want to look at tomorrow, but overall I felt quite happy with what we had and the laps that we did. Suzuka is usually a good track for the Team, so we are confident going into the weekend."

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:30.237, P2; FP2: No time set

“It was unfortunately not a very busy Friday, so we probably got the most out of what we could. We were expecting a better P2 but unfortunately the rain prevented us from running and that meant we couldn’t get any more learnings. I think we have a good base from the morning though, we just have to try and dial up a bit of balance and hopefully we can be in a nice position. I was pleased with the car from the running we had, we have made some changes ahead of this race and it feels good. We had made some alterations for P2 and obviously we didn’t manage to get the read on those but we are in a similar boat to a lot of teams around us. It will be a very busy practice session tomorrow, we are going to be doing some high fuel runs and then go into quali prep, so it should be an interesting morning. We are confident for this weekend; I think the car is working well."

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Ferrari

Sainz was the pick of the Ferrari drivers in FP1, pushing the Red Bulls closely and certainly looking back to full fitness. Leclerc pushed a little bit too hard and got ragged on his soft tyre lap, but was still not too far away. Both drivers came out towards the end of FP2 when conditions had dried enough for slick tyres, with Leclerc’s late charge netting him third overall.

READ MORE: Leclerc reveals tribute helmet for Bianchi ahead of Japanese Grand Prix

Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:1:30.558, P6; FP2: 1:38.760, P3

"It was a mixed day. In FP1, we identified a few things we needed to work on in terms of set-up. But then, we barely ran in FP2 and so we couldn't find the answers we were looking for over a flying lap, so we will have to focus on that tomorrow morning to be ready for qualifying."

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:30.269, P3; FP2: 1:52.579, P7

"It was not an ideal Friday as we lost all of the second session due to the changing conditions. This morning in FP1 I was quite comfortable in the car, but I was looking forward to the afternoon session to continue working on the setup. The track was too wet for slicks and too dry for Intermediates, so it really made no sense to run and we decided to stay in the garage.

"Anyway, we are all in the same situation and we still have tomorrow morning to fine tune the car ahead of qualifying."

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Carlos Sainz of Spain and Ferrari prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Mercedes

Despite saying this track wouldn’t play to their strengths, Friday was an encouraging day for the Silver Arrows. Both drivers looked relatively quick in the opening session and even managed to split the Ferraris. In the latter hour of practice, only Hamilton opted to come out. He went for an exploratory lap early on before the heavier rain fell, and then came back out for a quick run late on.

READ MORE Hamilton hails ‘best session of the year’ for Mercedes in Japan as Russell admits pace was a ‘pleasant surprise’

Lewis Hamilton – FP1: 1:30.543, P5; FP2: 1:35.226, P2

"FP1 was a great session for us. It was the best session for us so far this year and the best the car has felt. I felt very positive and excited heading into FP2 as this is a circuit that every driver loves to drive. It was a shame not to get much running in, therefore. In the last two years here, we’ve struggled with a car that has had an inconsistent balance and has been difficult to drive. The team has done a lot of great work since Australia, and we seemed to hit the ground running today. The car was definitely in a sweeter spot. We’ve got a better baseline to start from this weekend and hopefully we can build on that."

George Russell - FP1: 1:30.543, P4; FP2: No time set

"We performed better than we expected to in FP1. That was a pleasant surprise, and the car was feeling really nice to drive. Both Lewis and I were happy with the overall balance. The W15 has been performing better when the conditions are cooler though, so that is a note of caution. Our focus today was trying several test items and experiments to make the car more consistent in variable conditions. Time will tell whether these have had the intended impact and it was frustrating that we couldn’t evaluate these further in the afternoon.

"It’s such a shame for those here and watching at home that we couldn’t do much running in FP2. I hope we can find a solution for these moments and conditions. It’s not the first time it has happened, and it won’t be the last. Looking at tomorrow, Qualifying will be interesting as it’s a clear single lap tyre. Most drivers may only have three or four sets of the Soft compound so you will have to ensure you nail each and every lap."

Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director

"We've done a lot of work over the last week focused on making the car more consistent. We've seen across the first three races that we have sessions where we look strong, but when it comes to qualifying and the race, we've fallen short of our expectations.

"It's too early to say whether we've made the progress that we are hoping for, but it is encouraging that the drivers are happier with the feel of the car. The data also suggests that we have got the tyres in a better window. It was a shame for the fans that weather reduced the amount of running in the afternoon session, but there is plenty of opportunity to get laps in tomorrow morning."

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes looks on in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Bryn Lennon - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

McLaren

It was a mixed bag from McLaren on Friday. At a track they did well at last year, they started slowly with both drivers having their initial soft tyre runs interrupted by red flags. As such, their true form remains a mystery. Piastri did come out in FP2 and blasted his way round in the tricky drying conditions to top the field, while Norris had to contend with an uncomfortable moment when the car twitched under him. He skated wide as a result but did keep well away from the barriers.

Lando Norris – FP1: 1:31.240, P10; FP2: 1:44.977, P6

"Not a very busy day on track overall. It's a shame we didn't get much running done in the morning because of the Red Flag and then again in FP2 with the conditions. It’s unfortunate for all the fans who came to watch today.

"I think we’re in a reasonable place with the car, so I'm confident we can go into tomorrow and get the final feeling before we head into Qualifying. We’ll work hard to put ourselves into a competitive position."

Oscar Piastri - FP1: 1:31.165, P8; FP2: 1:34.725, P1

"Not a lot going on in FP2 today, but I was able to get a couple of laps in at the end in the tricky conditions. I think it’s been an okay day, it’s difficult to get a good reading on everybody’s pace because of the lack of representative laps. I think we’re in a decent position, so we’ll take what we have available in the data and look to learn more tomorrow morning ahead of quali."

Andrea Stella, Team Principal

"The Red Flag in the first practice session and then the rain in the second one meant that there wasn’t much track running on the first day of practice. That’s a shame for the super F1 fans that came to the Suzuka circuit today, but hopefully the remainder of the weekend will be busier on track. The limited running leaves some unknowns in terms of car setup and also, to some extent, tyre behaviour for the rest of the weekend. However, this is the same for everyone and may also present an opportunity."

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Lando Norris of Great Britain driving the (4) McLaren MCL38 Mercedes in the Pitlane during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Aston Martin

Aston Martin were trying to benchmark their new upgrades in FP1, bolting them to Stroll’s car and not Alonso’s. But with the Canadian also running aero rakes, disaster struck when a sensor came loose, curtailing Stroll’s running and leaving him in the garage for quite some time. As such, he wound up massively out of sequence late on and was on the soft tyres when the rest were on longer runs. Alonso did get a more representative time in, which landed him solidly in the top 10. Neither driver came out at all in FP2.

Fernando Alonso – FP1: 1:30.599, P7; FP2: No time set

"It's great to drive around Suzuka, but there's not much more to say today since we didn't get out during FP2 because of the wet weather.

"It's a shame for the fans who come here to support us. They always generate a fantastic atmosphere - hopefully tomorrow and on Sunday we can provide some entertainment.

"It was looking strong in FP1, but today doesn't really count for much. We'll look to optimise everything for tomorrow and Qualifying, and then we'll aim to make the most of that in the race on Sunday."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:32.055, P15; FP2: No time set

"We've got updates on the car here and it's always good to test them out on track. This morning, it was a lot of aero rake running. Then, it was a bit of a slow day with the rain, so we didn't get too many laps today.

"Tomorrow, the focus will be on Qualifying. We have an idea of where we're going to be, but we'll see.

"It's great to be back in Japan in front of the passionate fans. It's a brilliant track to drive with the speed of the corners and flow of the track."

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Fernando Alonso of Spain and Aston Martin F1 Team prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

RB

Ricciardo sat out FP1, making way for Iwasa to make his debut. The Japanese racer acquitted himself well, with plenty of laps and no errors. But it was a far from ideal scenario for the Australian, especially considering how little running was had in FP2. Ricciardo will need a very good FP3 now if he is to get up to speed here. As for his team mate, Tsunoda had an eventful day. He was in the top 10 in FP1, before coming close to tangling with Hamilton at the end of FP2 – something that would have marred his otherwise very solid opening to his home race weekend.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP2: 1:41.913, P5

“I sat out while Ayumu had his home run in FP1. Being settled at the pit wall during the first session, I went through a lot of data alongside watching the onboards and hearing the comments of the drivers, so this was definitely productive and there’s always some learning. Then in FP2, when I jumped into the car, it was a bit frustrating to complete only a few laps due to the track conditions. The weather was in the middle and this meant it wasn’t well enough for an inters running, nor a proper run on the dry. I didn’t drive that much, so I’m giving you a long wrap-up of the day, where probably a few seconds would’ve been enough. Looking at the morning, Yuki looked like he got up to speed quickly and was in the top 10 pretty much all session. It felt like we were probably at the front of the midfield. You never know what happens in quali, but it looked like we’re where we expected to be.”

Yuki Tsunoda - FP1: 1:31.230, P9; FP2: 1:40.946, P4

“It’s great to come back to Suzuka in front of the Japanese crowd; I enjoyed it so much and it felt great. It was a positive first day for us. I think we started good in FP1, finishing top 10, showing that the pace is there. The upgraded floor is targeted at slow-speed corners, whereas here is more medium- to high-speed corners so we’re not expecting too much. Together we’ll finetune a couple of areas where there’s room for improvement before FP3, put it together for qualifying, and focus to extract the performance. It’s been very special and it’s only Friday, so I’m looking forward to giving it my all and fighting to achieve our maximum!”

Ayumu Iwasa - FP1: 1:32.103, P16

“I’ve driven at Suzuka many times but it’s a completely different, amazing and special feeling to do it in an F1 car. There is much more capacity to push, and the limit of the car is much higher. I got good experience for the future, and I appreciate the opportunity. I’m super thankful to Red Bull, Honda, and all the people at VCARB who have made me feel welcome as soon as I walked into the hospitality. There were no issues today and I was able to have a good feeling from the car straight away, so I was able to build up the pace quicker than expected, which was positive. Also, I think I could make quite some good progress with the team throughout the session. The main target was to get as much data for the team as I could, so I shouldn’t push too much because it was important to just complete many laps. I hope they got some good data for the weekend. In the end, my second set of tyres was to build up the pace and get the feeling of driving an F1 car around the Suzuka circuit. I think we achieved all our targets and for the rest of the weekend, I will try to get more experience in the team. Today's drive has given me extra motivation to keep pushing hard.”

Alan Permane, Racing Director

"It’s always nice to race here in Suzuka. What an amazing track that the drivers love. This morning, we had Ayumu in the car, standing in for Daniel, and he did a perfect job for us. He got the car up to speed, was quick and gave good feedback. Ayumu was using the standard floor, while the new floor was on Yuki’s car. That allowed us to get a comparison and very accurate assessment, which was great. We’re happy with the new floor, it’s delivering exactly what we predicted, and we’ll be using it on both cars for the rest of the weekend. Yuki was up to speed quickly and had a very straight-forward morning, saying the car felt very good and he was happy with the balance. The afternoon, of course, was compromised by the rain. We had a quick look on the Inters because we haven’t run them on the car yet this season, so we wanted to have a quick feel before we head into the European season, which we know can be wet, to see if there’s anything we can learn. Daniel was in the car for FP2 and it’s a shame that it was wet because that limited his running, but he’s an experienced guy and knows the circuit well. It isn’t ideal but he’s got FP3 tomorrow and I don’t expect it to hamper his preparation for qualifying tomorrow. Although it was only a handful of laps, he was happy.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Yuki Tsunoda of Japan and Visa Cash App RB prepares to drive in the garage during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Williams

Sargeant had the biggest moment of the day, getting out of shape into Turn 7 when on the soft tyres. He dipped a wheel on the grass, lost control and ploughed into the barriers, damaging both the front and rear of his car. Fortunately, the chassis appears to be okay, but the damage was severe enough for him to sit out of FP2 as his team set about rebuilding his car. As for Albon, he did come out in the afternoon session, but didn’t fancy a late bid for glory on the soft tyres.

Alex Albon - FP1: 1:31.943, P12; FP2: No time set

"It’s hard to say where we are with so few laps; we would’ve liked to run more in FP2 as we didn’t feel very comfortable with the car after the first session. We tried to make some changes to improve this, however with limited running, we don’t have much to go off. Hopefully the setup will work for us into FP3 and we can learn more about the car ahead of Qualifying."

Logan Sargeant - FP1: 1:33.204, P20; FP2: DNS

"I put the car in a place I didn’t realise I was at. It’s a bit of a silly mistake and one that I shouldn’t be making especially in FP1. Fortunately, it wasn’t like the mistake last year when I over pushed. Nevertheless, I still left the team with some damage but got away better than it could’ve been."

Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance

"It was a shame that FP2 was affected by the rain, particularly as the conditions were never really wet enough for Intermediates nor dry enough for sensible slick running. Having lost Logan’s car early in FP1, and with Alex doing front wing testing in FP1, we were looking forward to a busy FP2, but the rain denied us that opportunity.

"Whilst Logan’s crash caused a lot of damage, it was limited to the suspension, wings and floor with no damage done to the chassis or PU. The extent of the damage meant that he was unable to run in FP2, but he will be back in action in FP3.

"We didn’t quite have the setup where we wanted it during FP1. We made some changes for FP2 and will now use FP3 to determine if we have gone in the right direction. Fortunately, the weather looks more stable for tomorrow so we should be set for a productive day."

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Logan Sargeant of United States and Williams climbs from his car after crashing during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Kym Illman/Getty Images)

Alpine

Alpine have upgrades here, which they are hoping buys them some time. But they weren’t fully able to test those new parts out on a disrupted day of running. Ocon started his day having to brake in the pit lane after Piastri was released into his path, while Gasly was frustrated by some of the traffic out on track. Ocon did opt to come out very late in FP2 for an exploratory lap, but Gasly decided to keep his powder dry and wait for tomorrow to complete his quick laps.

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:31.935, P11; FP2: No time set

“It was great to see the fans out in force today, as always here at Suzuka. It’s a shame they did not see too much running in the afternoon, so hopefully the rest of the weekend will be better. Today was about having a first look at how the car behaves with some of the new updates. It seemed to be in line with expectations in Free Practice 1 and we aimed to try something different for Free Practice 2, but we could not do that with the mixed conditions. Given the limited running it’s hard to get a full picture, but we will see what we can learn and analyse overnight to prepare for final practice. It will be a busy session for everyone to gather as much information as possible before heading into Qualifying.”

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:32.277, P17; FP2: No time set

“We tried a few things in Free Practice 1 today, which was the only running we did on Practice day here in Japan. There was some rain in the afternoon, quite unfortunately timed, so it meant we remained inside the garage for the one-hour duration. We learnt a lot in the morning session with the new parts. Everything worked as expected and we have some valuable data to run through to confirm a few more things. That’s always the most important thing in Practice, especially when you have upgrades running for the first time. We’ll see what we can do to improve the car ahead of Qualifying tomorrow. There have been no surprises so far and all eyes are on the rest of the weekend.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Esteban Ocon of France driving the (31) Alpine F1 A524 Renault on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Haas

Hulkenberg was shown a black and white flag for running over the white line on the pit exit, in a rare moment of impatience as he found himself behind a slow moving RB. Do something similar tomorrow, and he’ll get a far sterner penalty. Apart from that it was a steady day for the team, lots of laps in FP1 and a few in FP2, but both drivers decided it was too wet to set a time on the slick tyres.

HIGHLIGHTS: All the action from a rain-hit second practice session in Japan

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:31.958, P13; FP2: No time set

“FP1 was good, it didn’t feel too bad in the car, but I think our expectations going in to this weekend is that it’s going to be a tricky track for us with the high-speeds and fast change in direction. It’s a shame about the weather, especially for the fans as they’re so enthusiastic in Suzuka. They show so much love and support, and for us not to be able to give them a full show feels a bit sad, so I’m sorry about that. In FP2 it wasn’t really wet or dry, it was the worst session for Formula 1 cars. Hopefully we can find some performance overnight, but we need to see what we can do in terms of runs and timing.”

Kevin Magnussen – FP1: 1:32.803, P19; FP2: No time set

“I don’t think we started the day off well with the balance, we had lots of understeer and tried to correct it during FP1. We probably needed a bigger set-up change, so we changed the rear wing and a few other things as well, so I would’ve loved to have tried that out in FP2, but the session got rained on. It was too dry to go out on inters, and too wet to go out on dry tyres – so it resulted in no running. Hopefully FP3 can be dry tomorrow before qualifying, and if that’s the case, there will be no issues.”

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal

“Overall, I’d say it’s as I expected. We’re struggling with Sector 1 a little bit, because it’s a high-speed sequence of corners. We wanted to test a couple of things but with the weather and so on we haven’t been able to do it. We have a bit to work on tonight in terms of car balance – to look for better qualifying and race pace. I’d say we’re in a similar situation to Australia, if we get the car balance right, the set-up right, I think our race could be more competitive than our qualifying. But still, in qualifying tomorrow our focus is to try and get into Q2 with both cars.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Haas F1 VF-24 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kick Sauber

Both Bottas and Zhou managed to get plenty of running during FP1, and they also opted for more laps in FP2. In the opening session, both drivers ran two sets of mediums, the only team not to run the soft compound tyre. That hints at perhaps a different strategy come Sunday – that or they gambled knowing the weather might disrupt their longer runs in FP2. With the rain falling, both drivers tried out the intermediates and the softs in the second session although neither set a time.

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:32.054, P14; FP2: No time set

“It’s great to be back on track here in Suzuka for what, overall, has been a positive day for us, despite the mixed weather conditions. The upgrades we have brought for this race have been working as we expected, and the feeling within the team was quite good this morning. It’s a shame we couldn’t make the most out of FP2, with the rain preventing most meaningful laps, but we still got some decent running and gathered useful information to work on overnight, as well as practiced our pit stops. We still haven’t managed to run on the soft tyres in dry conditions, but we’ll hopefully be able to do that tomorrow in the final practice session, to come prepared for Qualifying and try to get into the top 10.”

Zhou Guanyu - FP1: 1:32.638, P18; FP2: No time set

“It’s only been a few months since our last visit but being in Suzuka is always nice. Today’s sessions were quite different due to the changing conditions: we gathered lots of data in the morning and gained valuable insights, while we used the rainy afternoon session for some pit stop practice. Our performance appears to be even stronger here compared to previous events, especially considering that we only ran the medium compound and used FP1 to experiment with the setup. The team here and in Hinwil has done a great job as our new package seems to be functioning as expected, and I think we should be aiming for the top ten for the rest of the weekend. We’ll continue to work on the car and fine-tune the setup to ensure we’re well positioned for a successful qualifying session tomorrow.”

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SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05: Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Kick Sauber C44 Ferrari on track during practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on April 05, 2024 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Rose - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Pirelli

Simone Berra, Chief Engineer

"As things turned out, only the first hour of free practice produced any useful data regarding tyre behaviour on this very demanding Suzuka track. The second session was spoiled by intermittent rain, which meant the track surface was never dry enough to provide sufficient grip for the drivers to push on slicks, nor was it wet enough to be able to fully evaluate the behaviour of the intermediates, even less so to identify the crossover point from this tyre to the dry weather ones.

"The most striking piece of data was how much quicker the lap times were compared to the previous Japanese Grand Prix. On the same compounds as in 2023, Verstappen’s 1’30”056 is 1”6 faster than the quickest time, also set by him last September. Clearly, the significantly lower temperatures could have contributed to the quicker lap times, in particular enhancing C3 performance. The other factor is the general increase in performance from this year’s cars. The Soft can therefore be considered as a race tyre, given the performance advantage it would ensure for the start and over the opening laps. This means it is a particularly attractive choice on a track where overtaking is far from easy. However, for a further evaluation of possible strategies, we must wait for tomorrow’s free practice session."

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