Mark Webber set the fastest time in Friday’s second Free Practice session in the Red Bull, ahead of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, with Sebastian Vettel in third.
The times were close once again, indicating that this is set to be another close fight between McLaren and Red Bull in particular with Ferrari picking up the pieces and Force India looking pretty competitive again.
Lotus once again tried to run its additional drag reduction device on the rear wing, but had a few problems and have decided not to use it in qualifying and the race.
Technical director James Allison said, “We evaluated ‘The Device’ in the morning but were unable to make it switch effectively so we won’t be using it for the rest of the weekend.”
Ferrari managed to complete a full programme of evaluation with both cars, but sense that they lack a little pace in comparison with the two front running teams. Suzuka has similarities with Silvesrtone and the tyre choice of soft and hard is the same as at the British Grand Prix, which Alonso led until just before the finish. But the Spaniard thinks they are chasing it a bit this weekend, “It’s hard to say if we can be as competitive here as in Silverstone: that was three months ago and we don’t know exactly how our rivals’ cars have evolved compared to how much progress we have made. As for the small updates we have brought here, there’s not much to say.”
It was quite an eventful day with Paul di Resta and Michael Schumacher both crashing at Spoon Curve; “I think I was already concentrating too much on the corner ahead of me and therefore had a wheel on the dirt and went off,” said Schumacher. Meanwhile Vitaly Petrov stopped near the end of the afternoon session without a rear wing.
Nico Rosberg was forced to change his engine between sessions after pulling off the circuit in the morning session.
Nico Hulkenberg, fending off questions about whether he is set to join Ferrari, managed to set the fourth fastest time in the afternoon session, keeping up Force India’s recent run of form.
His team mate Paul di Resta, however, missed most of the session after crashing early on, pushing too hard too early, as he later admitted.
McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has said this weekend that they chose Perez over Di Resta because of his age and because they feel he has more potential so it’s a tough weekend for Di Resta to move on mentally and the incident in FP1 was the last thing he needed.
Both Force India drivers are under examination by Ferrari this weekend, as is the incumbent Massa. Whitmarsh took Sergio Perez, despite Ferrari president Montezemolo saying he wasn’t ready, will Whitmarsh’s comments on Di Resta have any impact on Ferrari’s decision?
As predicted tyre management is going to be critical in the race, with the decision on two stops and three finely balanced. The higher temperatures will tend to cause the Pirelli’s a higher level of thermal degradation. On single lap pace, the soft tyre looked to be around 0.8s to 1sec faster than the hard.
And finally, Pirelli came up with a nice statistic to ponder: Suzuka is one of the most selective circuits of the year: since 2003, only drivers who are world champions have won.
JAPANESE GRAND PRIX, Suzuka, Free Practice 2
1. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m32.493 34
2. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m32.707s + 0.214 32
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m32.836s + 0.343 37
4. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m32.987s + 0.494 30
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m33.093s + 0.600 28
6. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m33.107s + 0.614 35
7. Jenson Button McLaren 1m33.349s + 0.856 22
8. Bruno Senna Williams 1m33.499s + 1.006 35
9. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m33.614s + 1.121 32
10. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m33.750s + 1.257 13
11. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m33.866s + 1.373 19
12. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m33.903s + 1.410 36
13. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m33.9$3s + 1.490 33
14. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m34.291s + 1.798 12
15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m34.300s + 1.807 33
16. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m34.863s + 2.370 32
17. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m35.080s + 2.587 34
18. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m35.711s + 3.218 41
19. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m35.870s + 3.377 37
20. Timo Glock Marussia 1m36.194s + 3.701 32
21. Charles Pic Marussia 1m36.636s + 4.143 28
22. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m37.342s + 4.849 30
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m37.701s + 5.208 35
24. Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes No time 2