Friday practice - selected team and driver quotes 02 Oct 2009
A damp Suzuka in first practice became a very wet Suzuka in second practice. Not surprisingly most teams kept their running to a minimum as a result. All of them report back on the action (or lack of) on the opening day in Japan
Adrian Sutil, P1 - 1:40.356, 3rd; P2 - 1:47.261, 1st
I've had a lot of experience at this track from 2006 when I was here in Japanese F3 and I really like this circuit. It's a great track with lots of fast and high speed corners and a nice flow. We didn't get the chance to do much driving today unfortunately. It was a really easy session this afternoon - just 10 minutes and my first lap was P1! This morning we did just 14 laps and things went quite well. I was confident we would be back on the pace in Suzuka and at the moment it looks like this: overall we are looking much better than in Singapore. But still nobody really knows the score about the weather and dry set-ups so it will be an interesting weekend for sure.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, P1 - 1:42.475, 12th; P2 - 1:47.931, 3rd
Today was quite a positive day even though the weather didn't help us. It was a difficult situation and tomorrow it seems like it is going to change again. Overall the car worked very well in the wet weather conditions and also with the intermediate tyre balance and finally in the last five minutes we could try the extreme wet balance too. Everything is responding and working well, although we do know tomorrow could be different if the weather changes, but we are optimistic.
Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer:
Two completely wet sessions today, with a large part of the afternoon being just too wet to run. This circuit has a few areas where the gradient sets up rivers and puddles that can cause aquaplaning. It was possible to evaluate both the intermediate and wet tyre performance for both drivers, and gather some data despite the conditions. Our performance in the wet looks quite strong, but of course the forecast now is for predominantly dry conditions, so there is plenty to do tonight to prepare for the weekend.
Sebastian Vettel, P1 - 1:43.218, 17th; P2 - 1:47.923, 2nd
In P1 it was too dry for the extreme wets and by the end, also for the inters, but it was too wet for the dry tyres too. I think the general problem today for all is that teams are short of wet tyres - whatever you use today has to also count as part of your allocation for the weekend, which is why not many cars were running. In P2 there was a lot of water on the circuit at the start, so no-one wanted to take the risk of maybe doing something stupid. Towards the end of the session the rain became lighter, so we went out to check everything was good with the car. The circuit is fun to drive here, even in the wet. Lets hope for more consistent conditions tomorrow, but I think we have a competitive package whatever the weather, so lets see.
Mark Webber, P1 - 1:42.332, 11th; P2 - 1:49.382, 13th
Today was all about the conditions. Weve only got a certain amount of wet tyres that we can use during a race weekend, so we cant just run round in the wet for the sake of it. We have to do what we can in the laps that we have available on those tyres. The start of P2 was very wet and it wouldnt have been possible to learn a great amount - but we did a few laps at the end of the session to get an idea of where were going.
Heikki Kovalainen, P2 - 1:40.356, 1st; P2 - no time, 18th
This morning the track was in a better condition than it was in the afternoon so we decided not to go out in second practice. We think tomorrow and Sunday will be dry so we didn't want to risk any damage to the car in these tricky conditions. We also felt that we wouldnt benefit at all from doing any additional running. In the morning, it was not so bad - it was drying out quite well so we could also use the Intermediate tyre, which worked well. I like this track, it has some very good corners and the grip level is very high. Obviously, the Japanese make very good Tarmac as this was also the case in Fuji!
Lewis Hamilton, P1 - 1:41.443, 6th; P2 - 1:47.983, 4th
This track is awesome! This is the best track Ive ever driven. Its something very special for me and I had a great time today, even though it was wet. We didnt do much running - we werent supposed to be running this afternoon, but I couldnt help it: I just had to go out and have a little bit of fun! Ive heard its going to be dry for the race, Im just looking forward to getting out there in the dry and seeing how fast you can push around here.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal:
Firstly, it feels fantastic to be back at Suzuka for the first time since 2006. Its such a mighty racetrack and has clearly caught the imaginations of both our drivers. The organisers have done a fantastic job with the facilitys refurbishment, creating a world-class venue without losing any of the unique character that this place has. And although the poor weather made it difficult to appraise our speed relative to our rivals, were encouraged by our performance today: Lewis was immediately on the pace during every single one of his runs and Heikki finished P1, comfortably quicker than his nearest rivals. Nonetheless, with dry weather forecast for Sundays race, and mixed conditions still expected tomorrow, we still have a lot of work to complete to fully prepare us for what could be both an unpredictable qualifying session and a tricky and eventful race.
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport:
A typical Suzuka day, really. Tomorrows weather should be better, and on Sunday it should be fine according to the forecast. Having said that, the conditions traditionally change very quickly at this circuit. Heikki posted the fastest time of the morning session which nobody could improve in the very wet afternoon practice - but this of course does not mean a lot in judging the competitive order of the field after the few laps that have been done by everybody today. It is remarkable what the racetrack owners have invested here to improve working conditions for the teams at this great circuit, and the new pit building is absolutely state of the art.
Nico Rosberg, P1 - 1:42.188, 10th; P2 - 1:49.872, 16th
Today was just a matter of trying out the tyres in order to get an understanding of where the change over points are and how the inters and full wets are working, degradation-wise. What was clear was that I pretty much destroyed the wets when the track dried out. With the information from both cars, we now have a good understanding of what is going on.
Kazuki Nakajima, P1 - 1:40.648, 2nd; P2 - 1:48.058, 5th
Not a great day in terms of weather, but in terms of results it was ok. We didnt get many laps in, but those we did get gave us a good platform for any potential wet weather running over the weekend. It looks positive, so hopefully well be in the same position tomorrow for qualifying, but in the dry, preferably!
Sam Michael, Williams technical director:
It was a fairly uneventful day in terms of running the cars due to the weather. We checked both full wet and intermediate tyres and the wet set-up. Now well prepare the cars for qualifying with new engines and the race gearboxes. Well have to be conservative on the gear ratios tonight due to no dry running at all.
Sebastien Buemi, P1 - 1:41.421, 5th; P2 - 1:48.691, 6th
I really liked my first day driving this track, even though it was so wet. Its a fantastic circuit. Anyway, its useful to drive in the rain and we can see from this mornings session, when everyone went out, that we have quite a quick car in these conditions. We have some new parts so we have to be sure we dont get any reliability problems and so far its been okay on that front.
Jaime Alguersuari, P1 - 1:42.667, 14th; P2 - 1:48.802, 9th
It was good to get a feel for the car in the wet and we made progress, even though I wasnt pushing too hard, but at least we know how the car works on the Intermediate and Extreme wets. I felt quite comfortable and Im looking forward to the rest of the weekend. I hope we get a dry session tomorrow morning, so we can improve. My first impression of Suzuka is that its really nice. You can feel a lot of grip in the fast corners in the wet, so I think it should be amazing in the dry. With the downforce we have and, now on slick tyres, I think everyones lap times in the dry will be much quicker than in 2006.
Fernando Alonso, P1 - 1:41.532, 7th; P2 - 1:48.693, 7th
"Today we couldn't do many laps because of the heavy rain, but we think it will be a dry race so we limited our running. We are happy with the car and there are no problems, but tomorrow we will start the real work and everything will be new once again for everyone."
Romain Grosjean, P1 - 1:43.572, 20th; P2 - 1:49.405, 14th
"With the rain today it was not a great free practice, which is a shame. I did my best to complete some laps and to learn the circuit as this is my first time at Suzuka, although in the second session I only completed a few laps. I think we will have to wait for the weather to improve tomorrow to continue with our work."
Bob Bell, Renault team principal:
"It has been a very wet day. We managed to run on intermediate tyres during the first session and full wets this afternoon. That has given us an idea of how those tyres work on this circuit and we also have a rough idea for the set-up of the car in wet conditions. Beyond that it was very difficult to learn very much today. The forecast suggests that it could be wet tomorrow morning, but it should by dry for qualifying and the race. Therefore we may well start qualifying running dry tyres for the first time, which could make for a very interesting session."
Kamui Kobayashi, P1 - 1:43.407, 19th; P2 - 1:49.054, 12th
"I only heard I would be driving today at 8.30 this morning when I was on my way to the circuit; it was a bit of a surprise because even though I knew Timo was sick, I wasn't expecting this. It was a really good opportunity for me but the conditions were pretty bad and I didn't get a lot of laps in the end. I had quite a good run in the first session and I was trying to improve step by step. It was important not to make any mistakes because I wanted to complete as many laps as possible, for me and the team. I wasn't pushing 100 percent due to the wet conditions but still the lap times were pretty good, especially considering I don't have much experience of this track and haven't driven here for six years. The car feels like it has improved a lot since I last drove it in February. It's difficult to judge in the wet but I was really impressed with how much development has been done in that time."
Jarno Trulli, P1 - 1:42.657, 13th; P2 - 1:48.737, 8th
"There's not much to say after that. Unfortunately for all our Japanese fans the weather severely limited our running today. I hope we have better weather tomorrow so we can put on a better show for them. The car didn't feel too bad in the wet but it is difficult to comment too much on it because of the conditions."
Dieter Gass, Toyota chief engineer race and test:
"It was a bit of a wasted day today because the conditions were so bad and the forecast for the rest of the weekend is for better weather so there was no incentive to do much running. Between first and second practice the conditions went from bad to worse and we were only able to do one run at the very end of the afternoon session which was not particularly useful. Considering the bad weather and the fact he has not tested since the beginning of the year, Kamui did extremely well; we are very pleased with his contribution. Timo should be back tomorrow and he will not suffer from missing today's practice - unless the weather forecast changes - because it wasn't possible to do any significant preparation for dry running."
Nick Heidfeld, P1 - 1:42.977, 16th; P2 - 1:50.179, 17th
Certainly there wasnt much to learn today. I feel sorry for the many Japanese fans who stayed out in the grandstands despite the nasty weather but didnt get much to watch.
Robert Kubica, P1 - 1:42.833, 15th; P2 - 1:48.861, 10th
It is really good to be back in Suzuka. The track is amazing to drive on. Unfortunately the weather conditions were far from ideal today as we could not run at all in the dry. In the morning we did a couple of laps on full wet and also intermediate tyres just to check the balance of the car. The weather conditions during the afternoon session were even worse than in the morning, as there was really lots of water on the track. Preparing for tomorrow will be a bit of a guessing game, as the weather forecast predicts dry conditions for tomorrow.
Willy Rampf, BMW Sauber head of engineering:
This was not a usual Friday. The ongoing rain throughout the whole day forced us to do a minimum programme. With this we only got a set-up for wet conditions. More was not possible today. The next two days should stay dry.
Kimi Raikkonen, P1 - 1:41.577, 8th; P2 - 1:48.886, 11th
The conditions were very difficult today: lets hope the situation changes for tomorrow and that we will be able to run in the dry. This morning, the track was changing continually, so it was difficult to understand where we were compared to the others. I concentrated mainly on the car, trying to understand its handling and I think the situation is reasonably good. We will have to try everything to defend our third place in the Constructors classification: it will be difficult because the McLarens are very strong and in Singapore they got a great result, although they have not yet got ahead of us. How was the track after three years away? Its impossible to compare: the tyres and cars are too different to those from 2006.
Giancarlo Fisichella, P1 - 1:40.985, 4th; P2 - 1:49.553, 15th
The day was all about the rain that however should not be a factor on Sunday, which makes everything more complicated. I am pleased with the way the session went this morning, because I quickly had quite a good feeling for the car in the wet and managed to improve with every passing lap, running at the same pace as the best. We hope to improve compared to Singapore, but we know that will be difficult.
Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal:
Even if there was no real technical reason for doing so, we decided to do at least one run at the end of the day, as a sign of respect to all the fans who remained glued to their seats in the grandstands, despite the rain. We only ran in the wet and the cars handling in the conditions could be described as acceptable. Clearly if, as the forecast predicts, qualifying and the race are run in the dry, there will not be much time to get the cars working at their best, which makes predicting any outcome even more difficult. For our part however, we are aware that our potential is the same as it was in the last few races, as a result of a strategic decision taken regarding the development of the F60. The unknown factor remains the behaviour of the tyres, which has never been as unpredictable as it has this season.
Chris Dyer, Ferrari chief engineer:
"This morning we managed to do a good job in the wet, first on the extremes and then on the intermediates. Both drivers were reasonably happy with the handling of the car in these conditions: if it was to rain for the race, we have a good basis from which to work. In the afternoon the rain was very heavy for almost the whole session and the track conditions were very difficult, to such an extent that it wasnt really worth going out and risking damaging the car. Giancarlo felt particularly comfortable in these conditions, which confirms his skill level. Now, we have to take into account that the number of sets of rain tyres available to us for the whole weekend is very limited and we have to manage them carefully, to avoid finding ourselves in trouble at the crucial moment. We only did a handful of laps at the end on used tyres and we took the opportunity to do a practice start on the grid.
Jenson Button, P1 - 1:43.318, 18th; P2 - no time, 19th
"I feel sorry for the fans at Suzuka today but unfortunately we can't get any useful information in these conditions with so much water on the track. We spent the morning session working on the balance of the car with the wet and intermediate tyres to ensure that we are prepared if the same wet weather does continue over the weekend. It was important to achieve some running and it feels good to be back at Suzuka. This is a great drivers' track so hopefully we'll get some dry running tomorrow."
Rubens Barrichello, P1 - 1:41.821, 9th; P2 - no time, 20th
"As we expected, the rain came to Suzuka today and it led to an unusually quiet opening day of practice. The morning session wasn't too bad but the rain this afternoon was heavy enough to create small rivers on parts of the track and there was nothing to be gained by going out. The limited running makes for a much more interesting and challenging day tomorrow however as getting the right set-up quickly will be very important. Whether it proves to be dry or wet tomorrow, we will need to study the data from today and be focused tomorrow morning to ensure we are well prepared for qualifying."
Ross Brawn, Brawn GP team principal:
"The weather conditions impacted on our practice plans today as the wet track meant that we opted for a reduced programme. We completed an installation run on the wet weather tyres this morning before Jenson and Rubens switched to intermediates as the track started to dry out over the course of the session. With a heavy downpour between the two sessions, the condition of the track deteriorated further. As the weather forecast shows a dry qualifying and race and with limited wet weather tyres, we felt that there was nothing further to be learnt from running again this afternoon."
Hirohide Hamashima, Bridgestone director of motorsport tyre development:
"Today we have learnt that our latest specification intermediate tyre works very well here. This tyre stood up well for around 20 laps when used on a drying track. The rain through most of the second session meant no running took place for the first hour. This makes the weekend very interesting as the teams have no data from the dry tyres today. Any data learnt from this morning using the wet and intermediate tyres will be lost in translation for using the dry tyres if the weather is better tomorrow. If it is wet then we will have a very interesting day as the grid could be determined by a wet qualifying session. If it is dry it will also be very interesting as the teams will have to learn the hard and soft tyre performance with only limited track time. This gives the teams a big challenge, not just for qualifying but also for Sunday's race."