Championship leader Lewis Hamilton has ended Friday practice for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix atop the timesheets, finishing quickest in an interrupted second practice session at the Suzuka Circuit.
In a 90-minute session which featured four accidents, two red flags and a few spots of rain, Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg prevailed to give Mercedes yet another 1-2 on the timesheets – marking the 100th time the Silver Arrows have topped a session. Both cars were comfortably clear of the chasing pack, which was headed by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who almost one second slower than Rosberg’s best lap.
Having both had sit out the opening session, Kamui Kobayashi and Jean-Éric Vergne were both keen to get some practice mileage under their belts at this most difficult of circuits. Unfortunately for both, disaster struck: Kobayashi lost control of his Caterham and had a spin into the barriers just minutes into the session, while Vergne’s Toro Rosso – which suffered a engine-related stoppage at the hands of Max Verstappen in FP1 – ground to a halt before he’d even managed a timed lap.
It looked to be real trouble for Vergnem but his prayers were answered by Daniel Ricciardo in the sister Red Bull Racing team – the Australian lost control of his RB10 after out-braking himself at the Casio chicane and slammed into the final corner barriers. That brought out the red flags, which allowed Vergne’s car to be recovered and repaired so he could get out on track in the final 45 minutes. Incredibly, his car ground to a halt (for the third time in a day) on the back straight with three minutes to go, bringing an early end to the session when the red flags were thrown again.
As if there hadn’t been enough drama, Esteban Gutiérrez joined the fray with his own accident, sliding into the tyre wall at Spoon Curve and bringing the Sauber driver’s session to an early finish.
Those who hand’t thrown their cars into the barriers could have the session to try out Pirelli’s Medium and Hard compound tyres on offer this weekend. The Mercedes’ jumped to the top of the timesheets during lower-fuel runs on the Mediums mid-way through the session and were never headed thereafter.
Behind third-fastest Bottas was Suzuka specialist Jenson Button in the McLaren, who finished ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the first of the Renault-powered cars. Kimi Räikkönen outpaced Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso to give the red cars sixth and seventh on the timesheets, while Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren, Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso and Ricciardo completed the top ten places.
Vergne, despite his troubles, finished eleventh-quickest, while an off-the-pace Felipe Massa was only 14th-fastest and almost 1.5 seconds slower than his teammate. Another point of interest was the limited running by either Force India across the entire day – the two cars clocked just 19 laps in FP1 and only managed 24 laps between them in FP2.
Down at the bottom of the timesheets, Marcus Ericsson once again headed the four-car scrap for the wooden spoon between the Caterhams and Marussias, finishing comfortably quicker than either Jules Bianchi or Max Chilton.
Saturday’s final practice session at Suzuka gets underway at 11am local time (GMT +9).
2014 Japanese Formula 1 Grand Prix – Free Practice 2 Results:
|Driver||Team / Entry||Time||Gap||Laps|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||1:35.078||28|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W05||1:35.318||+ 0.240||27|
|3.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||1:36.279||+ 1.201||24|
|4.||Jenson Button||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||1:36.409||+ 1.331||28|
|5.||Sebastian Vettel||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:36.436||+ 1.358||24|
|6.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||1:36.529||+ 1.451||19|
|7.||Fernando Alonso||Scuderia Ferrari F14T||1:36.637||+ 1.559||26|
|8.||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren Mercedes MP4-29||1:36.714||+ 1.636||31|
|9.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||1:36.943||+ 1.865||27|
|10.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB10||1:37.186||+ 2.108||3|
|11.||Jean-Eric Vergne||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR9||1:37.219||+ 2.141||19|
|12.||Nico Hülkenberg||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||1:37.504||+ 2.426||16|
|13.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||1:37.563||+ 2.485||31|
|14.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW36||1:37.700||+ 2.622||18|
|15.||Sergio Pérez||Force India Mercedes Mercedes VJM07||1:37.786||+ 2.708||8|
|16.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Renault E22||1:37.798||+ 2.720||27|
|17.||Adrian Sutil||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||1:38.010||+ 2.932||25|
|18.||Esteban Gutiérrez||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C33||1:38.365||+ 3.287||9|
|19.||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||1:39.069||+ 3.991||22|
|20.||Jules Bianchi||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:39.306||+ 4.228||20|
|21.||Max Chilton||Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03||1:39.333||+ 4.255||24|
|22.||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham F1 Team Renault CT05||1:42.760||+ 7.682||3|
Image via XPB Images