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Friday analysis - Red Bull playing the long game? 07 Oct 2011

Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4/26.  
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari 150 Italia.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Sebastian Vettel (GER) Red Bull Racing RB7. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Nico Rosberg (GER) Mercedes GP MGP W02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Bruno Senna (BRA) Lotus Renault GP R31.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Sebastien Buemi (SUI) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR6.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Sergio Perez (MEX) Sauber C30.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Team Lotus T128.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Rubens Barrichello (BRA) Williams FW33 crashes in the second practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Jerome d'Ambrosio (BEL) Virgin Racing MVR-02. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011 Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) HRT Formula One Team HRT F111.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice Day, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 7 October 2011

McLaren may have headed the timesheets at Suzuka, but many in the paddock were more in awe of Red Bull’s apparent long-run pace, when presumably the champions were running relatively heavy fuel loads. Of course, no rival can know their programme for sure, which is all part of the fascination of Fridays…

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 33.634s, P1/1m 31.901s, P1
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 33.725s, P2/1m 33.245s, P8

Button was pretty happy with his car’s balance in both sessions, but said that they needed to find more speed overnight. He was also concerned that the Red Bulls were faster on longer runs. Hamilton didn’t really get going in the afternoon as track conditions militated against improvements soon after Button had gone fastest again, but said he was guardedly optimistic.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso, 1m 34.372s, P4/1m 32.075s, P2
Felipe Massa, 1m 35.585s, P7/1m 32.448s, P5

Alonso admitted that the cars weren’t in that much better shape than they had been in Singapore, despite a strong second-place performance in the afternoon. The Spaniard believes his best hope is of a podium finish, but doesn’t feel he can compete with Red Bull and McLaren. Massa said he felt it had been a more positive day than usual Fridays of late.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 34.090s, P3/1m 32.095s, P3
Mark Webber, 1m 34.426s, P5/1m 32.147s, P4

No real problems here, apart from Vettel’s small ‘alarm clock’ mistake in the Degners this morning. Damage to his car was minimal. Webber had a good day, and was right behind Vettel in the afternoon. Red Bull again look strong, especially over longer distances.

Mercedes
Michael Schumacher, 1m 36.033s, P9/1m 32.710s, P6
Nico Rosberg, 1m 38.197s, P16/1m 32.982, P7

No major problems here, once Rosberg had completed his diligent work with high and low fuel loads.

Renault
Vitaly Petrov, 1m 36.370s, P10/1m 33.446s, P9
Bruno Senna, 1m 36.487s, P11/1m 34.557s, P14

Petrov had a steering rack problem in the morning, while Senna flat-spotted a set of medium tyres with a part-spin in the afternoon. That aside, however, the team were happy with an experiment to run modified Singapore rear bodywork on Senna’s car, and spoke of progress once more.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Buemi, 1m 35.590s, P8/1m 33.681s, P10
Jaime Alguersuari, 1m 34.937s, P6/1m 33.705s, P11

Neither driver had any problems, and both spoke warmly of their STR06’s performance in fast corners.

Force India
Adrian Sutil (pm only), 1m 33.790s, P12
Paul di Resta, 1m 36.949s, P14/1m 34.601s, P15
Nico Hulkenberg (am only), 1m 36.700s, P12

Sutil worked on balancing his car when he took it back from Hulkenberg for the afternoon. Di Resta played himself into running Suzuka, and said there was more to be done to hone it fully.

Sauber
Sergio Perez 1m 37.103s, P15/1m 34.393s, P13
Kamui Kobayashi, 1m 36.948s, P13/1m 36.038s, P16

Sauber had a very busy day as Perez and Kobayashi worked to sort out a new aero package. Perez said it was an improvement and that he was happy. Kobayashi just caught a half spin in 130R, but flat-spotted a set of tyres in the process.

Lotus
Heikki Kovalainen (pm only), 1m 36.225s, P17
Jarno Trulli, 1m 39.168s, P19/1m 39.800s, P23
Karun Chandhok (am only), 1m 39.946s, P20

Kovalainen said he was a little on his back foot after missing out to Chandhok in the morning, but otherwise reported no problems. Trulli had to acclimatise to another new power steering problem, then electrical trouble in the afternoon.

Williams
Rubens Barrichello, 1m 38.331s, P17/1m 37.123s, P18
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 38.446s, P18/1m 38.387s, P21

Williams’ first outing for ages without Sam Michael proved to be disastrous. Barrichello had a puncture in the morning then went off in the afternoon. Maldonado had an off in the morning and an engine problem in the afternoon.

Virgin
Timo Glock, 1m 40.872s, P21/1m 37.440s, P19
Jerome d'Ambrosio, 1m 41.019s, P22/1m 38.093s, P20

Glock lost time this morning with a water leak, but got going properly in the afternoon. D’Ambrosio had an uneventful two sessions.

HRT
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 41.106s, P23/1m 38.763s, P22
Tonio Liuzzi (pm only), 1m 42.480s, P24
Narain Kathikeyan (am only), 1m 41.775s, P24

No problems for Ricciardo or Karthikeyan today, but only four laps after taking his F111 back for the afternoon Liuzzi ground to a halt with a water pressure problem which stranded him out at the Spoon Curve.

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