Formula 1

Carlos Sainz fastest in rain-hit first practice at Suzuka, Lewis Hamilton fifth

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Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz was the surprise name at the top of the order in Friday's rain-hit opening practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The 21-year-old Spaniard was one of only 12 drivers to post a competitive lap as persistent rain played havoc with the track conditions.

Lighting quick 

Sainz's best time of one minute 49.434 seconds saw him end the session quickest, ahead of Red Bull's Daniil Kvyat, with Nico Rosberg third in his Mercedes.

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Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who completed only six laps, was fifth quickest, over one second slower than Sainz.

The sport of Formula One is back in Suzuka for the first time since Jules Bianchi's fatal crash.

And the miserable conditions here on Friday were eerily similar to those which saw Bianchi skid off the track and hit the side of a crane deployed to recover Adrian Sutil's stricken Sauber in last year's tragic race.

Hairy moments 

The Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were the first drivers to experiment on the intermediate tyres and both experienced hairy moments with the rain continuing to fall.

Bottas, who described the conditions as "terrible" slid off the track at turn 15, while his team-mate Massa took a trip through the gravel at turn nine moments later.

The forecast is set to improve for the remainder of the weekend, with showers expected to receive throughout the day.

Elsewhere, the Lotus duo of Pastor Maldonado and Briton Jolyon Palmer - filling in for Romain Grosjean in the first session - took to the circuit for one exploration lap, but neither posted a time.

They remain locked out of their hospitality tent after Lotus' money problems came to ahead in Suzuka this weekend. The team will appear at the High Court on Monday for a third time over an unpaid tax bill.

Does Carlos Sainz Junior have a promising career in front of him? 

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Formula 1
Carlos Sainz Jr.

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