Raining falling heavily in the 30 minutes leading up to the one-hour session getting underway at 12pm local time at Suzuka meant no cars headed out when the pitlane opened, even though the precipitation had stopped coming down by the time the green exit light came on.
Kevin Magnussen became the first driver to head out after five minutes and he was so joined by home hero Yuki Tsunoda – although neither driver completed a timed lap, with Tsunoda reporting “a couple of rivers” on the track at the end of the first sector.
Schumacher’s 1m52.237s therefore established the first place benchmark using the full wet tyres.
They were joined by even more cars as the first third of FP1 came to a close, with Leclerc saying he thought conditions would soon be suitable for intermediates.
His team-mate Carlos Sainz beat Schumacher’s time with his first flier on a 1m49.952s, before Leclerc, following a few seconds behind on the road, swept into first with a 1m49.103s.
The Ferrari cars continued to circulate and post quicker times on the full wets – first with Leclerc’s 1m48.104s and the Sainz, who had complained of hearing a strange sound from his engine, which thought might be coming from the turbo, forged ahead on a 1m47.758s.
Charles Leclerc, Ferrari F1-75
Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images
As has become a near trademark move for Verstappen in FP1s this year, Verstappen duly immediately moved to the head of the times with his first flier – a 1m44.059s.
Bottas and Ocon also then slotted in ahead of the Ferrari drivers using the green-walled rubber, as did Singapore winner Perez – albeit 2.886s behind his team-mate, who had by then completed a second flier to improve the best time to a 1m43.362s.
Ocon’s second flying lap then put him ahead on a 1m43.022s, before the rain returned and the spray increased around the 3.6-mile lap.
But that did not initially stop the times from improving, with the Ferrari drivers now on the inters and flying as the final 20 minutes approached.
Leclerc moved back ahead on a 1m42.634s that featured a massive slide nearly off the exit kerbs coming…