The reigning world champion dominated Friday’s running at Suzuka, finishing a comfortable six tenths of a second fastest in first practice, before again topping the timesheets in FP2. 

Red Bull endured a horrible weekend last time out at the Singapore Grand Prix as their 15-race win streak came to an end, but normal service resumed on the opening day of action in Japan. 

"It felt really good today. From lap one the car was enjoyable to drive again," Verstappen said.

"It seems like we had a strong day, on short runs, long runs... There's a lot of degradation on this track, so it will be quite tough on tyres in the race. But so far we had a good start to the weekend.

"It looks like it's all a bit tight behind me. Ferrari and McLaren are close, so we'll have a look.

"But I think at the end of the day, we just focus on ourselves and try to optimise our performance. And then if we do that, then I'm confident that we can fight for pole.”

Verstappen being happy in his car once more is ominous for his rivals, including Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez, who lagged behind the Dutchman in both sessions. 

Like Verstappen, Perez confirmed that Red Bull’s Singapore troubles appear to be a one-off. 

"We had problems with the balance of the car in FP1, we tried to improve it a bit in FP2," the Mexican explained. 

"I think we have some pretty good understanding of the direction we need to take.

“Certainly, things are looking a lot better than they were last weekend which is positive.

"I look forward to qualifying well tomorrow because the degradation seems to be quite high around this place, especially with the hot temperatures we are expecting.

"I do believe that we were going to be strong tomorrow and also on Sunday."