Sebastian Vettel led championship leader Mark Webber in a dominant Red Bull one-two in both practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.
While they flaunted an advantage of more than half a second over their title rivals, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton could only watch impotently from the sidelines after crashing in the morning.
When the 2008 Formula One champion did get back on track with eight minutes of the second session remaining, the Briton was able to complete just six laps with the 13th fastest time of the afternoon.
The 25-year-old, determined to throw caution aside after three retirements in four races dropped him to third place and 20 points behind Webber, had completed nine laps before running wide at the Degner double right-hander and smacking the tyre wall.
The car came to a halt under the bridge with the front left wheel hanging limply.
Hamilton stepped out, shaking his head but keeping his yellow helmet on to hide his undoubted fury at having to sit out the remaining 45 minutes.
With heavy rain forecast for Saturday, the McLaren title contender knew he had blown his chance of really getting a feel for the new bits his team had brought to the race in an all-out push to catch up with Red Bull.
The Red Bull drivers, team mates and fierce rivals, had no such problems with their cars powering around the flowing figure of eight circuit as if on rails.
Vettel, last year's winner at the Honda-owned circuit and fourth in the title battle, set a best time of one minute 32.585 seconds on a dry track in the morning and then, with the sun high in the sky, bettered it after lunch with a 1:31.465.
Australian Webber, who is 11 points clear of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with four races remaining including Sunday's, was 0.048 and 0.395 slower.
Renault's Robert Kubica was the best of the rest in both sessions, 0.544 slower in the first and an even more demoralising 0.735 off the pace in the second.
"This weekend for me, the Red Bulls will be a good half a second in front of people," Williams' experienced Brazilian Rubens Barrichello said on Thursday, and he was right on the money.
McLaren, who have vowed to throw everything 'including the kitchen sink' at their car in the remaining races, had world champion Jenson Button sixth fastest in the afternoon.
Despite his accident, Hamilton was fifth quickest in first practice. Button also went wide at Degner in that session but avoided Hamilton's fate.
Alonso, the double world champion who has won the last two races, ended the day fourth fastest with Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa fifth.
Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, suffering in the Mercedes in his comeback season, was a morale-boosting eighth at one of his favourite circuits.