Mercedes Lewis Hamilton was fastest in a shorten second practice session ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix. The session was delayed for forty-five minutes as heavy rain fell onto the circuit, with race control opting to delay the session.
The rain formed rivers around the circuit meaning only fourteen drivers headed out onto track, but only five of them set a time on the full wet tyre. Hamilton was the only driver from the top three teams to set a time, going seven tenths faster than Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
It was Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was first to head out on the full wet, followed by both Renaults of Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer with them all managing to do a few install laps. Looking at the weather for the rest of the weekend weather is set to remain mixed.
This means that some drivers opted to save tyres for later, also the conditions were unsuitable for the intermediate tyres. Sergio Perez was the first driver to set a time before his Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon went faster.
That was before Hamilton set the fastest lap going seven tenths faster than Ocon.
The Williams of Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were the only others to set a timed lap, with six drivers – Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas – failing to head out at all.
Stroll soon demonstrated why teams were wary to send their drivers out onto track after an off at Turn One. The Canadian got caught out on standing water sending him straight on but he managed to keep his car out the wall.
Red Bull did not even send their drivers out, preferring to save tyres in case the forecast is wrong at a place where the weather is typically unpredictable.
Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who was fifth fastest in first practice, is to be hit with a five-place grid penalty for changing his gearbox before the regulation limit of six consecutive events.
The weather is likely to put some teams on the back foot going into the race as they will have no long-run data on either the soft or the supersoft tyres.
Toro Rosso did an impressive job to repair Carlos Sainz Jr’s car, following his crash in first practice, so he could get out for an installation lap with around twenty minutes to go.