Nico Rosberg led his team-mate Lewis Hamilton through-out both the practice sessions for the Japanese Grand Prix with the team looking miles ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull.
Mercedes clearly ahead
Over the past few years through the hybrid era we are currently seeing Mercedes dominating at Suzuka. The team has been very strong through-out qualifying and the race over the past two years and it not easy to see why they are. Mercedes have the power and speed which is needed because the circuit is high speed and flows making it a circuit built for them.
In FP1 the gap between Rosberg (P1) and Sebastian Vettel (P3) was 1.3 seconds, In FP2 the gap between Hamilton (P1) and Kimi Raikkonen (P3) was 0.3 seconds. Ferrari may have shaved time back in FP2 but I feel its not enough really to the Mercedes unless they run into issues.
RED Bull – Long Runs
Red Bull looked quite close to Mercedes when the did there long runs during FP2 with the gap not being that much. We saw last weekend when we thought they would be on the back foot they took the race win. But you need to think what they might be able to do on the soft tyre which they didn’t run.
Looking at Pirelli’s data for the Mercedes the difference between the Medium and soft is just over half a second based on my calculations. So if we were to take half a second off they would of slotted into third .012 down on Ferrari.
Max Verstappen said ““I think this has been one of the strongest Fridays so far. Everything seemed to work quite well, car set-up was good and we looked quick on both tyres today, even on the Hard.”
“We were hampered by the Virtual Safety Car on our short runs so the tyres lost a bit of temperature, this meant we didn’t show our full potential.”
Ferrari – Unusual strategy
Both Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen didn’t take what we would expect to be a normal run plan by running hard and soft tyres. So they could be under performing to develop there car. We know Suzuka isn’t about power so we thought they could be on the pace this weekend.
Raikkonen said “I suffered a lot with understeer and I was struggling with the balance through the first sector, but the lap time was ok. In the end we got a bit better, but we are not still where we want to be. In the second session I had a small electric issue, likely with a sensor, but we changed it and it was ok.”
Vettel said “I didn’t try the medium compound, we focused more on the soft tyre in the morning, and on the very hard tyre in the afternoon. We tried to do our homework, but the balance is not there yet. We will now need to look at the data and see where we are, also compared to the others.”
We have seen in recent races that Force India have been strong in the midfield and they are again looking strong. In FP1 both Nico Hulkenberg was seventh with team-mate Sergio Perez eighth. The duo also set there fastest times on the medium tyres. In FP2 both moved up a place which put them ahead of the Mclaren’s.
I think that could be an interesting battle there between McLaren and Force India as McLaren want a good result here because it’s Honda’s home race.
Bob Fernley said “It’s been a pretty straightforward and satisfying day of practice. The team achieved the objectives of the run plan, which included some test items split between the two cars.”
“It was encouraging to see that our baseline set-up was not too far away from ideal and both drivers were pretty content with the feel of their cars by the end of the afternoon.”
During FP1 Haas’s Romain Grosjean spun off after a break issue on his car. He went off after locking up into Degner Curve. Its unlucky because it was a recurring issue he has had in recent races they showed so much promise early on and have fallen away.
Grosjean said “Clearly, we had some issues with the brakes today, which didn’t make our life easy, but eventually we worked our way around it. We still have a lot of work to do tonight trying to balance the car.”
Well expect as usual for Mercedes to turn the wick up in qualifying tomorrow and with this baring technical or weather that Mercedes will be on pole. I say this circuit will give the advantage to Red Bull over Ferrari this weekend. Force India could also cause a upset here too.