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Friday analysis - all to play for at Suzuka 11 Oct 2013

Mark Webber (AUS) Red Bull Racing RB9.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W04.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Romain Grosjean (FRA) Lotus E21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Jean-Eric Vergne (FRA) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR8.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Ferrari F138 makes a pit stop.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Jenson Button (GBR) McLaren MP4-28.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Esteban Gutierrez (MEX) Sauber C32.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Paul di Resta (GBR) Force India VJM06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Valtteri Bottas (FIN) Williams FW35.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Giedo van der Garde (NDL) Caterham CT03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02 crashed in the first practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013

Consistent weather conditions in Japan enabled most teams to complete their Friday programmes, but Williams, Caterham and Marussia all suffered interruptions in FP1, and in the afternoon Williams, McLaren and Lotus had offs. A shadow was also cast over the paddock when news of the death of former Marussia tester Maria de Villota filtered through as FP2 was drawing to an end. That session saw Red Bull in front, though by a reassuringly slim margin. With cooler weather coming in tomorrow, teams will have to rework their set-ups slightly to maintain tyre temperatures, but for now we take a team-by-team look at day one at Suzuka…

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel, 1m 34.768s, P3/1m 33.852s, P1
Mark Webber, 1m 34.787s, P4/1m 34.020s, P2

Vettel said he was happy with his RB9’s balance but that setting the car up for the race will play a crucial role in tyre management, which will be a definite issue here. Webber said things felt okay, but got a bit tetchy at one stage with Di Resta in FP2 when he felt the Force India driver had held him up.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg, 1m 34.487s, P2/1m 34.114s, P3
Lewis Hamilton, 1m 34.157s, P1/1m 34.442s, P6

Hamilton was happy with his W04 in FP1, slightly less so in FP2. He and Rosberg put as many miles on the tyres as possible in both sessions to gauge the degradation rate, and Mercedes will be spending a lot of time working on tyre management this evening as it will be crucial to the team’s performance on Sunday afternoon.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 35.364s, P8/1m34.202s, P4
Romain Grosjean, 1m 35.179s, P7/1m 34.411s, P5

Raikkonen fell off the road backwards at Turn 7 in FP2 during his race run, and was unable to extract himself from the gravel. Despite that, the long-wheelbase E21s looked reasonably quick in comparison with immediate rival Mercedes, and were within striking distance of the Red Bulls. The team are hopeful that their benign tyre wear will be a major factor in the race.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 35.635s, P10/1m 34.473s, P7
Jean-Eric Vergne, 1m 36.066s, P13/1m 35.109s, P12

Ricciardo once again looked strong, though Vergne struggled a little with his STR8. James Key explained that the brake disc failures in Korea last week were due to problems with the front brake ducts.

Ferrari
Felipe Massa, 1m 35.126s, P5/1m 34.698s, P8
Fernando Alonso, 1m 35.154s, P6/1m 35.087s, P10

Ferrari struggled all day, and with locking wheels in the morning and a spin on the medium tyres in the afternoon Alonso seemed to be overdriving as he tried to make up for the F138’s shortcomings. Massa, by contrast, looked smoother and faster all day, but the disappointment in the camp was tangible.

McLaren
Jenson Button, 1m 35.868s, P11/1m 34.912s, P9
Sergio Perez, 1m 35.35.450s, P9/1m 35.709s, P16

McLaren had a serious setback when Perez crashed in the Spoon Curve early in FP2 when he put a wheel on the grass on the entry. That cost the team valuable track time, but Button said he’d had a relatively good day. There’s still work to do getting the best from the medium tyres, however, as there wasn’t much difference between the speed on them and on the hards.

Sauber
Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 36.760s, P18/1m 35.089s, P11
Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 35.900s, P12/1m 35.182s, P13

On his first visit to the track Gutierrez continued to show well against his hot-at-the-moment team-mate, Hulkenberg, and both reported smooth days.

Force India
Paul di Resta, 1m 36.399s, P17/1m 35.275s, P14
Adrian Sutil, 1m 36.165s, P14/1m 35.341s, P15

Di Resta and Sutil continued their quest to find the VJM06’s elusive sweet spot as the cars yawed between understeer and oversteer depending in the set-up, and after going off at the chicane in FP2 the former incurred the wrath of Webber.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas, 1m 36.340s, P16/1m 36.136s, P17
Pastor Maldonado, 1m 36.178s, P15/1m 36.722s, P18

Maldonado lost much of FP1 when his Williams spun after losing the left-rear wheel in the Spoon Curve, shortly after a pit stop. Then he crashed in Degner 2 at the start of FP2, taking no further part in the session. Bottas continued the struggle with the FW35.

Caterham
Charles Pic (pm only), 1m 37.630s, P19
Giedo van der Garde, 1m 38.025s, P21/1m 37.905s, P20
Heikki Kovalainen (am only) 1m 37.595s, P19

Van der Garde was another to fall foul of Degner 2 in FP1, running wide and sliding off the road, albeit without damage to his CT03. Pic took his car back from Kovalainen, who’d run well in FP1, and just shaded Van der Garde in FP2.

Marussia
Max Chilton, 1m 38.763s, P22/1m 38.121s, P21
Jules Bianchi, 1m 37.629s, P20/Did not participate

Bianchi got Degner 2 wrong early in FP1 and crashed MR02 chassis 02 into the tyre wall. The damage was such that the team readied the spare chassis for him, but the rebuild couldn’t be completed in time for FP2 so he will run again tomorrow morning. Chilton focused on learning the track, and had a spin in Turn 1 in FP1 as he did so.

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