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Japanese Grand Prix FP2: Nico Rosberg fastest, Red Bull yet to show its speed
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Nico Rosberg
Posted By: Alex Kalinauckas  |  07 Oct 2016   |  7:42 am GMT  |  19 comments

Nico Rosberg topped the second practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of his Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton, as circumstances stopped Red Bull showing its hand on the soft tyres.

Rosberg, who was also fastest in the day’s earlier FP1 session, set his best time of 1m32.250s on the soft tyres just over a third of the way into the 90-minute session.

Pirelli has brought its soft, medium and hard compound rubber to Suzuka and the early indication is that there is not much difference between the harder two sets.

Sebastian Vettel

But when the drivers switched to the soft tyres for their qualifying simulations, they found a significant chunk of time.

Sebastian Vettel was the first driver to switch to the softs and he duly went fastest, 0.8s quicker than his previous best on the hards.

Rosberg was the first Mercedes driver to move on the soft compound tyre and he put in his fastest time shortly after Kimi Raikkonen had beaten Vettel’s lap.

 Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton, who had been quickest during the early running on the harder rubber, began his soft tyre run just after his teammate had finished his. The world champion was fastest in the first sector but he faded as the lap went on and ended up second, 0.072s adrift of Rosberg.

Raikkonen finished the session in third place – the 2007 went off at the Hairpin during the race simulation running, shortly after telling his Ferrari team he was having understeer problems that felt like he was “missing the front wing”.

Max Verstappen was fourth but his soft tyre run was disrupted by Esteban Gutierrez’s stricken Haas F1 car, which had stopped at the Dunlop Curve and caused race control to neutralise the session with the virtual safety car.

Max Verstappen

Verstappen did go for another run when the session resumed but he felt there was “no grip there, the tyres were too cold” and ended up 0.8s behind Rosberg. In the other Red Bull, Daniel Ricciardo did not complete a qualifying simulation run due to the disruption and finished the session down in 12th place on the timesheets as a result.

During the long runs, Hamilton was very consistent in the 1m37-38s range on the soft tyre, with Rosberg putting in a similar performance but going slightly slower.

Despite Raikkonen’s protestations at the understeer he encountered during his long run on the medium tyres he was quick using it nevertheless, a week after Ferrari avoided that compound in Malaysia. But the cooler temperatures in Suzuka mean the white-walled tyre is much better suited to the conditions.

Daniel Ricciardo

The Red Bull drivers put in delta times that had a smaller gap between their low fuel laps (Ricciardo completed two thirds of a flying effort before the VSC came out) and race laptimes, which indicates the team is either holding something back for qualifying or its drivers used less fuel during the longer running.

The gap between the medium and soft tyres is 1.2s, which is too big for drivers to try and get through Q2 to start the race on the mediums. Ideally they would not like to start the race on the softs, but with that in mind, a short first stint and a three-stop strategy on Sunday is likely.

The hard-to-soft delta is only 1.5s, which means the hard tyre looks quite competitive for the race. Last year, the field was pretty evenly split between the medium and hard tyres regarding which one the drivers preferred as the race tyre.

Sergio Perez

Speaking after the session, Rosber said: “It’s been a case of finding my way today. It began with quite a lot of under-steer and we had to work through the setup in order to find a better balance on the car. In the afternoon, the medium tyre didn’t seem as strong as the hard as we saw in Malaysia. However, on the soft tyre we showed good one-lap pace, the balance felt good and the track was really exciting to drive. It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”

Vettel ended the session in fifth, ahead of the Force India pair of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Force India is involved in a close scrap with Williams over fourth place in the constructors’ championship and needs to be aware of McLaren’s potential to pick up points, but Perez was faster than Alonso during the race simulations.

Valtteri Bottas was ninth for Williams and Carlos Sainz rounded out the top ten a day after he said that F1 drivers will need to be physically fitter to handle the 2017 cars in the pre-event press conference.

Felipe Massa ended up 11th in the second Williams, ahead of Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat, who saved a spectacular spin going through the final corner early in the session without going into the barriers.

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen finished 15th for Renault – the Dane one of a number of drivers to run wide at the Hairpin – with his former teammate Jenson Button 16th in the second McLaren.

Gutierrez was 17th despite only completing 11 laps, with Jolyon Palmer and Felipe Nasr, who had a wild spin at the Spoon Curve late on, 18th and 19th.

Pascal Wehrlein beat his Manor teammate Esteban Ocon to 20th place and Marcus Ericsson brought up the rear of the field for Sauber.

Japanese Grand Prix FP2 results:

1 Nico Rosberg, Mercedes 1m32.250s, 35 laps
2 Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes 1m32.322s +0.072s, 35 laps
3 Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari 1m32.573s +0.323s, 26 laps
4 Max Verstappen, Red Bull 1m33.061s +0.811s, 29 laps
5 Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari 1m33.103s +0.853s, 34 laps
6 Sergio Perez, Force India 1m33.570s +1.320s, 37 laps
7 Nico Hulkenberg, Force India 1m33.873s +1.623s, 35 laps
8 Fernando Alonso, McLaren 1m33.985s +1.735s, 37 laps
9 Valtteri Bottas, Williams 1m34.028s +1.778s, 33 laps
10 Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso 1m34.086s +1.836s, 33 laps
11 Felipe Massa, Williams 1m34.127s +1.877s, 33 laps
12 Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull 1m34.150s +1.900s, 29 laps
13 Romain Grosjean, Haas 1m34.241s +1.991s, 33 laps
14 Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso 1m34.305s +2.055s, 27 laps
15 Kevin Magnussen, Renault 1m34.339s +2.089s, 36 laps
16 Jenson Button, McLaren 1m34.398s +2.148s, 29 laps
17 Esteban Gutierrez, Haas 1m34.643s +2.393s, 11 laps
18 Jolyon Palmer, Renault 1m34.760s +2.510s, 40 laps
19 Felipe Nasr, Sauber 1m34.824s +2.574s, 26 laps
20 Pascal Wehrlein, Manor 1m35.292s +3.042s, 30 laps
21 Esteban Ocon, Manor 1m35.400s +3.150s, 37 laps
22 Marcus Ericsson, Sauber 1m36.318s +4.068s, 26 laps

What did you make of practice for the Japanese Grand Prix? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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1

why such a great gap between alonso and button?

2
Gareth (the Philadelphia one)

The Daruma doll at the back of Nico’s garage made me smile. One eye painted, is that win the Japanese GP or win the 2016 WDC? A journalist should ask him…

3

Interesting.
Where do you think he might consider going?
My working assume is that RB would not want him. (and even if they did…)
Merc???
I doubt Fernando would allow McHonda to do anything he wouldn’t ‘throw all the toys from the pram’ (such an interesting expression), or blab about state secrets at McHonda (I hear it’s happened before).
So….
Merc???

Well…. well… I guess, it could be so.

How would you see it working?

4

This guy makes one of these for each race a few days after.

https://youtu.be/uC-lTSqrOrs

5

l find it disturbing when an article on Lewis antics during a press conference get so many more posts than the actual action. feel like the E-channel or something. l know it is only practice but… anyways, long runs seem to indicate a close fight with RB, so may be something to look up to for the race. hoping for a dry qualifying and mixed race conditions. let this race be more entertaining than whatever Lewis does off track. Marc

6

Its very clear by the tire selection that RedBull and FIndia are going for race pace: 4 sets of hard tires.
Since pit stops take so long in Suzuka, skipping one stop might pay a big prize.

7

Interesting.
However, I believe it unlikely that any team will get through Q2 on either Hard, or Medium. Do you think they will go for mediums for Q2?
How many stops are predicted; is it 2-3?
My position:
Everyone in the top 10, including RB and ForceIndia, if they (ForceIndia) can get past Q2, it will be on Soft.
So what’s the strategy to do one less stop?

8

despite the many typos, extremely insightful, and relevant article; thank you.

Red Bull: looks to have emulated the secret quali step in their PUs; I believe that there is a50:50 chance that this option is at least in the grey zone, with respect to the regulations.
Would it be possible to have a compartment, within the ICU, with fuel and/or fuel enhancer, under pressure, and use it during limited stints, thus beating the fuel flow regulation?
Anyways, they’ve got something: don’t be surprised if they surprise with front row appearance(s) in quali/pole.
Red Bull are coming.

Ferrari: even when they are reasonably competitive, drive feeling for the lead driver is off. We vastly prefers a strong front end, in order to ‘feel’ the contact to the road; it will be difficult for Ferrari to pull something out of the bag with this lack of feeling in the one former WDC, and the other former WDC(*4) with a three grid place penalty on a track which is difficult to pass on.
Were it not for Ferrari’s lack of the regulations-sketchy quali-boost system, either of these guys could threaten for victory; however, without it, as was witnessed in Malaysia, Merc can (apparently) easily pass them on track, and I won’t be surprised when RB displays the same capability.

The Merc Soap (channel MMC): the drama continues, this is not any mechanical drama, this is in essense, inter-personal melodrama; laser focused team effort would almost certainly ensure a Merc 1-2 finish, HOWEVER, it is so highly unlikely that we will have that….
… it may bit more interesting (though I am already bored with the RB 1-2s).
Look for Lewis to avoid potential for being mugged by his team mate, who, leading by 23 points, would likely be thrilled going into the next race…. leading by 23 points.

Further back:
Force India v Williams; this is a dog fight to the wire for precious prize money; neither team can afford to not try to go for it; Massa seems to have ebbed, heading towards his retirement, perhaps he’ll surprise in Japan.

Micky Honda will certainly being pulling everything they can out of the bag for this race, and that could be a lot; could be two points paying finishes, but a high probability of equipment failure; so 50:50 one driver in top ten, one driver DNF.
But hoping for a Jensen podium (somehow!)

Tires: some intrigue, and then there is always the possibility of unpredicted rain!?

Could be good.

9

Isn’t Suzuka fantastic? Fast corners, slow corners, long straights, hairpins, up the hill, down the valley – it’s got the lot. It may be a bit narrow and the run off areas a bit skinny in places – but if Silverstone has the best combo of fast corners of any circuit in Europe, Bathurst likewise being the Australian continent’s finest drive, Interlagos twists and turns being the last true classic in Columbus Americas, then surely Suzuka is the greatest track in the Far East-Pacific region. Without doubt!

It may only be practice, but the “quiet revolution” of the Force India’s of Checo and Hulk look bang on the money – again. Taken in the round, they have been the revelation of 2016: despite limited capital in a capital intensive business, the combination of two fine, consistent drivers and a very logical, mature development strategy has pushed them upto 4th in the constructors cup so far – a superb achievement.

10

It’s okay if you have a good balanced car GazBoy . It’s a nightmare if you don’t like Jenson and Grosjean.
Lewis hard tyre time looked great. On the fast tyre only a tenth in it.
Apparently Mercedes have
re-set/calibrated the Singerpore engine after the problem in Malaysia . It may be slightly down on power. Which means the time on the fast tyre is still good though a tad down. FP3 looks a wash out and Wet Qualifying and maybe be a partial wet race . So times maybe irrelevant and a mix to wet set up could be the optimal set up.

11

Although you are probably right about RBR not having shown their hand nevertheless I think Kimi is certainly in the right ball park in regards to trying to beat RBR at least on qualy pace . Race pace does still seem to be lacking for Ferrari in comparison to RBR/Merc though. Vettel had another messy session. Some of Seb’s performances in the 2nd half of this season have been strange.

12

He is being alonsoficated by Ferrari

13

I think it’s also a case that Kimi doesn’t have the set up compromise issues he did in 2014-2015 where he had to put more ballast at the front to try make the car turn sharper, in doing so making the back end skittish. I think Kimi’s getting the most out of the package but they just don’t have the downforce of RB & Merc.

14

Seb’s performances in the 2nd half of this season have been strange…..

Perhaps he’s doing it on purpose in order to trigger a ‘get out’ clause in his contract and return to Red Bull 🙂

15

Then someone might want to give him a little nudge and mention that RBR already have two guys who are fast, friendly, and getting the job done – No applicants need apply 🙂

16

Probably a slot open at Torro Rosso though… 🙂

17

That’s a very good point 🙂

18

James, who had the better long run pace, Max or Ricciardo?

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