Friday practice - selected team and driver quotes 07 Oct 2011
McLarens Jenson Button seemed to rule the roost in Japan, dominating the timesheets in both opening practice sessions, but with changing track conditions affecting proceedings, the pecking order is yet to be settled. All the drivers, and senior team personnel, reflect on their early progress at Suzuka
Jenson Button, P1 - 1:33.634, 1st; P2 - 1:31.901, 1st
Its always fun driving around Suzuka, particularly when you have a good car beneath you. This is an amazing circuit - the first sector is phenomenal; there is no rest, I dont think you breathe through that whole sector. Its all about getting it together and finding a balance that lets you flow through there. And the car feels good around here. I dont really know what to take from today in terms of where we stand, but the car feels pretty good. We tried a couple of different fuel-loads: on heavier fuel, the car feels okay through the high-speed changes of direction, although there are still some areas to improve - particularly in the long runs. The important thing for us is to get the car sorted and ready to challenge for victory.
My crash helmet for this weekend features the Japanese flag and the words JB and Jenson in Japanese on the sides and the back. Its similar to the helmet I wore in Monaco, and Ill be auctioning it off after the race to raise money for the people whove been affected by the earthquakes and tsunami here in Japan.
Lewis Hamilton, P1 - 1:33.725, 2nd; P2 - 1:33.245, 8th
Suzuka is a fantastic track to drive, especially when the weathers as beautiful as today. Looking at the times, I think Red Bull typically carries less fuel than us during Fridays long-run practices - thats often been the case throughout the year - and were often closer in the races. I think our long-run pace, particularly on Jensons car, looks good: I think weve got a good chance of being very competitive. Also, our pace over a single lap also looks very good. Actually, I think looking after the tyres during the race will be the biggest challenge, because degradation could be a slight issue for the teams. After P2, the stewards were looking at my data after Liuzzi parked his car at the exit of Turn 14 - but I did a slower sector time and didnt use DRS or KERS, so it should be okay.
Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principal
Its always encouraging to end the day fastest, and Jenson really underlined our pace by heading up both of todays free practice sessions. Weve made a number of small changes to the cars for Japan and were encouraged by the results - not just for this weekend, but as the foundation for development at future races.
Lewis wasnt able to capitalise on the softer rubber when his tyres were at their optimum due to several yellow-flag sectors during P2, but, nevertheless, hes still encouraged by the pace of the car over both a single flying-lap and a long-run.
Its always hard to make accurate assessments of other teams pace on higher fuel-loads, but weve been very focused on our own programme and feel comfortable with our pace given the fuel we were carrying. Obviously, that belief will be borne out tomorrow in qualifying and we hope that our predictions prove to be accurate.
Fernando Alonso, P1 - 1:34.372, 4th; P2 - 1:32.075, 2nd
This year we have seen all the teams go through so many highs and lows, with the exception of Red Bull, depending on which track we are at, so we should not be too surprised if today it seems that we have done better than in Singapore for example. And then, today is only Friday: its happened before that the first day has been like this and then we have not managed to do any better than fifth in qualifying. In fact, I dont think that things are so different to what they were two weeks ago, especially as our cars are pretty much unchanged. We hope to be able to fight with McLaren and Red Bull, but we know it wont be easy. What we can say is that the feeling from today is a little bit more encouraging than in previous races. Also, we must bear in mind that the races have been much more open than in the past, when the final result did not differ that much from the grid positions: strategy, tyre degradation and DRS create much more uncertainty and spectacle. For example, I think that here we will see a lot more overtaking than in past years.
Felipe Massa, P1 - 1:35.585, 7th; P2 - 1:32.448, 5th
Overall, it was a good day: compared to so many other Fridays this year, the first impressions are better. The car behaved reasonably well, but its also true we will not know where we are compared to the others until tomorrow afternoon. We worked a lot on defining the best set-up, learning important things for the rest of the weekend. Tyre degradation seems to be rather significant, which will make the race even more open in terms of strategy: finding the right set-up on the car wont be the easiest of jobs. Maybe we can fight for a podium finish and its a realistic goal. Sure, I always want to be able to fight for the win: its true that Red Bull has a significant advantage, but we must continue to believe in ourselves, because in the races, anything can happen.
Pat Fry, Ferrari chassis director
It is always difficult to evacuate precisely the relative strengths through the field on Friday evening, because we do not know exactly what our main opponents were doing, especially when it comes to the fuel loads they ran during the three hours of free practice. Therefore, its better to concentrate on our own efforts and try and prepare as well as possible for the rest of the weekend. We had various different aerodynamic elements to compare and that was the bulk of what we did in the first session. Its important also when looking to next year, because it means you can go into greater detail when it comes to the correlation between the track and the wind tunnel. This afternoon, tyres were the dominant item during the ninety minutes: this track is very tough on tyres and it will be some challenge to find the right balance on the car, both for qualifying and the race.
Sebastian Vettel, P1 - 1:34.090, 3rd; P2 - 1:32.095, 3rd
It wasnt a big mistake this morning, but in that moment I wasnt 100 percent awake and mistakes around here can be quite costly. I went off and tried to slow the car down, but I hit the wall slightly. It wasnt a big impact, but it did some damage to the car, so it wasnt perfect. It did affect our run plan a little, but we had a solid afternoon. The circuit seems pretty tricky this year on these tyres - they make the cars seem more alive, so Sunday will be an interesting race. Taking 130R with the DRS open isnt as easy as it used to be!
Mark Webber, P1 - 1:34.426, 5th; P2 - 1:32.147, 4th
Its good fun, its a great track and you can really let the car go around here, so all of us enjoyed it. Its a challenging circuit; we know there are a couple of tricky corners that can catch us out and were all pushing to the limit obviously. We got some good information today; we ran both tyre compounds and completed some long runs, so not a bad day. I dont think KERS will be a problem here, but its possible that the DRS might catch a few people out.
Michael Schumacher, P1 - 1:36.033, 9th; P2 - 1:32.710, 6th
"It was a pretty typical two practice sessions today. We were working on set-up issues as usual and achieved much of what we wanted, however we are aware that the character of our car and the character of this track are not a perfect match and there are areas still to work on. From what I have seen so far, I would guess we will find ourselves qualifying in the region we have been lately, but obviously we will make our best efforts to improve our position further."
Nico Rosberg, P1 - 1:38.197, 16th; P2 - 1:32.982, 7th
"We had two challenging sessions today as we worked to get the balance of the car right on high and low fuel loads. However at the end of P2, I'm happy with what we learnt, and I think all is going in the right direction for tomorrow."
Ross Brawn, Mercedes GP team principal
"Suzuka is a very challenging track and we had a slightly tricky balance to start with this morning. By the end of the second session this afternoon, we had largely got on top of that, with the engineers and drivers doing a good job to find better solutions. It's clear that tyres will be a major factor in the race on Sunday."
Norbert Haug, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"It was quite an encouraging start to the race weekend on this unique and challenging track. Our lap times during the race simulation on the option tyre look quite consistent, and we should have a decent base to work from this evening."
Vitaly Petrov, P1 - 1:36.370, 10th; P2 - 1:33.446, 9th
Both sessions were quite good for us without any significant mechanical problems meaning we could run through our programme as we wanted and everything went in a positive direction. We have some changes to make to improve the car but we have shown a good baseline so far here. We had to change the power steering rack in the morning but this did not affect the programme as I still achieved the laps I set out to. If we continue in the same vein tomorrow we should be well placed for Sunday.
Bruno Senna, P1 - 1:36.487, 11th; P2 - 1:34.557, 14th
It was great to drive in Suzuka again because its such a fantastic circuit. We spent the day working on the new tighter bodywork for my car, making a number of changes to try and find a suitable balance on the car. The main problem we have been struggling with is oversteer, in particular some snap oversteer at Turn 1 which resulted in a quick spin, but I managed to return to the circuit with help from the excellent marshals here and no harm done and continued with the programme. Theres still a lot of work to do tomorrow, and that work starts now.
Alan Permane, Renault chief race engineer
Vitalys first runs in FP1 were delayed as we changed the steering rack on his car after some small weeping was seen on his original rack. Bruno flat-spotted a set of medium tyres after a half spin in FP2, which meant we were unable to conduct a long run on that set. Bruno ran in both sessions with the tighter bodywork packaging which we used briefly in Singapore, albeit with modifications to aid cooling.
We are much happier than in Singapore; the R31 looks stronger here. Both drivers reported a lot of oversteer in FP1 but changes made through the session and in the break meant both were a lot happier in FP2. The new bodywork appears to allow adequate cooling and beneficial downforce gains however we are still analysing data to see if we will continue to use it. Bruno struggled a little with traffic and yellow flags, but looking at his first sector split he is very close to Vitalys pace. Weve still got work to do - the cars are far from perfect but our belief of qualifying both through to Q3 is very realistic.
Sebastien Buemi, P1 - 1:35.590, 8th; P2 - 1:33.681, 10th
I think this is the first very nice, very smooth Friday we have had for a long time, maybe since Hungary, with no issues, no crashes, no rain. This meant we were able to get plenty done and have a good feeling for what the car could do and how the few new parts we brought here are working. Its a bit early to talk about car performance, but if you compare today to Singapore, where we were at the back of our group, today we seem to be ahead of all of them with the exception of Petrov. The car is better suited to this type of track, but we still need to wait and see how qualifying goes tomorrow, as it will be a tight fight. However, I am confident we can have a good weekend. We also got a good read of the tyres: both of us got a good long run, Jaime on Option and me on the Prime, doing a lot of laps on the Medium tyres.
Jaime Alguersuari, P1 - 1:34.937, 6th; P2 - 1:33.705, 11th
This was a good days work and I feel we have made a step forward, which I hope we can confirm tomorrow with a good qualifying performance which would give us the sort of grid position from which to have a strong race. Our car definitely feels better at this type of track than the high-downforce type like our last race in Singapore. We have found more pace and there is still more to come, so it looks quite promising at the moment. There is quite a big difference between the two compounds and anyway, this track is demanding on tyres. This means that finding the best strategy to run will be fairly tricky and it should produce a fun race.
Laurent Mekies, Toro Rosso chief engineer
We had a few new things to evaluate this morning - a front wing, a floor and a rear wing configuration - which we did across both cars, while this afternoon was about the traditional Friday work of tyre evaluation, which we completed with no issues. This means we have a fair amount of data to work through tonight. I think we will have a very exciting race, from what we have seen from the race stints done today by the majority of drivers as it seems that tyre behaviour here will mean there will be a variety of strategy choices. Hopefully, we have picked up some pace thanks to the all the efforts that went into introducing our updates. For the moment, they appear to have helped us close the gap to some of our closest rivals and now it is up to us to put everything together tonight in order to confirm that tomorrow.
Adrian Sutil, P2 - 1:33.790, 12th
Suzuka is always a circuit that brings a smile to my face and I enjoyed driving the car this afternoon. We did the usual programme: some short runs, longer runs, and looked at both tyres. What we discovered is that they both have quite high degradation rates, especially with the high track temperatures we saw today. I suffered with some understeer at the start of the session with the front giving up, so we worked on improving that. We made a step forward by the end of the day, but theres still quite a lot of work to do overnight to find a better balance.
Nico Hulkenberg, P1 - 1:36.700, 12th
It was quite a positive session for me. We did all the running we planned, which gave us some good data on the tyres and I also did some work evaluating a new material in the brakes. But as always in FP1 the track was quite green and the car was not easy to drive because we didnt have the perfect balance and thats what you need to be quick around such a high-speed circuit. In terms of tyres, there was quite a lot of degradation on the mediums, but that will improve as the track rubbers in. Still, I think both sessions have shown its not going to be an easy race for the tyres.
Paul di Resta, P1 - 1:36.949, 14th; P2 - 1:34.601, 15th
I got my first taste of Suzuka today so the first session was mainly about getting me up to speed with the circuit. I always knew it was quite a technical lap and theres definitely more time to be found in a lot of the corners, especially the first sector. It was also pretty windy today, more so in the afternoon than the morning, which was blowing the car around a bit. Both cars ran with different programmes and looking at the feedback it seems like the route taken with Adrians car is probably the better way forward for the rest of the weekend. Also, I spent a lot of the day fighting the rear and that was partly due to the tyres going away quite quickly - which was the case for both the medium and soft tyres.
Dominic Harlow, Force India chief race engineer
Two tidy sessions for the team today, although the wind made things quite tricky, not least in terms of ratio selection for tomorrow! The items we tested have yielded some interesting data and obviously we will now determine what to take forward into the rest of the weekend. Overall we've still some scope to improve the balance of the car, but our longer run pace looks okay. It will be a very competitive weekend as we fight for more points at this fantastic circuit.
Sergio Perez, P1 - 1:37.103, 15th; P2 - 1:34.393, 13th
We really have completed a good programme today. It is my first time here and it is quite a difficult circuit. There is definitely room for improvement from me, and we also have to get the most out of our new aero package. The tyre degradation on the front was quite big, and we have to improve the balance to cope with that in the race.
Kamui Kobayashi, P1 - 1:36.948, 13th; P2 - 1:36.038, 16th
With all the updates we have to the car here we were quite busy today checking everything, and it is good that we managed to complete the programme without any problems. My lap time obviously doesnt look good because I spun in a fast corner when I had my fresh set of soft tyres. Overall I think we can improve the balance of the car, and also our pace when we now go to look for the best possible solutions for what we have learned today.
James Key, Sauber technical director
It was a hard days work. We had a lot of new parts, which we had to run through methodically, and overall those parts are working as predicted. In the afternoon we continued some back-to-back comparisons of the new rear wings, and we are now happy with the one we have selected for the Suzuka circuit. We did some further set-up work and the normal tyre comparison. Actually the difference between the soft and the medium compound is huge. Unfortunately Kamui had a spin with his new set of soft tyres, but until then his lap looked quite promising. We still have to do some work on the balance of the car, and there is a lot of data to be analysed for tomorrow and for the race preparation.
Heikki Kovalainen, P2 - 1:36.225, 17th
Im pretty pleased with how my afternoon went. Youre always a little bit on the back foot when you miss the morning session at this kind of high speed circuit as you need a bit of time to get your eye in, but the balance was good almost immediately and we were able to complete the whole plan, so it was a good session. The tyres seem to be behaving well here on the long run on the softs they held up until about the last lap so I think weve already found a good setup. As the track evolves that will improve even more so I think we could be in a good position in the race, bearing in mind our race pace and how well we can manage the degradation on both compounds. Well see on Sunday!
Karun Chandhok, P1 - 1:39.946, 20th
It was good to get back out on track, particularly here in Suzuka as this is a circuit I havent driven on before and was looking forward to trying out. It took a while to get the right lines, and as the tyre wear started to kick in I wasnt really able to improve the overall time, although I was getting quicker in certain sectors of the track. I got through a decent number of laps and think I did exactly what was required of me this morning. The car definitely feels quicker than it did when I raced it in Germany the update we brought to Singapore has definitely taken us a small step forward and we finished pretty close to the Williams, so I think well be able to fight in the race and hopefully put in as good a performance as we did here last year.
Jarno Trulli, P1 - 1:39.168, 19th; P2 - 1:39.800, 23rd
One of those stop start days for me. This morning I was adapting to the power steering system weve put on here and it felt ok but the runs were cut short with a mechanical issue before I could really start pushing. This afternoon the changes we made definitely felt better but when we had the soft tyres on an electrical problem meant I couldnt get any meaningful times in. Despite that the car felt like it was improving and looking at Heikkis times I think well be ok tomorrow.
Mike Gascoyne, Lotus chief technical officer
A reasonable Friday for us here in Suzuka. This morning we had Karun in Heikkis car and he did a very solid job for, focusing on aero programs and engine mapping. Jarno was less happy with his car, struggling a bit with the balance and the brakes, but we made a number of changes for this afternoon and they made an immediate improvement for him in FP2. Unfortunately an electrical problem brought his afternoon to an earlier end than we wanted, preventing him from setting any quick times on the soft tyres, but with Heikki we completed his whole plan and his time on the softs looks pretty good. This weekend will be all about managing tyre degradation and when that is the case it seems to benefit us so we are all looking forward to a strong weekend.
Riad Asmat, Lotus chief executive officer
"I think we can be pretty pleased with today. Karun performed very well this morning on a track he had never driven on before, and Heikki put in a series of strong runs this afternoon that is just starting to unlock what we think we can do here. Jarno suffered issues in both the morning and afternoon sessions, but we improved the overall balance for him in FP2 and with more work tonight and some clever use of strategy tomorrow I think we can push the cars ahead, particularly bearing in mind the limited running some of the teams just in front had today.
Rubens Barrichello, P1 - 1:38.331, 17th; P2 - 1:37.123, 18th
I had limited running today which was unfortunate. In this mornings session, a puncture cut my session short and then an off this afternoon also put me out early. The car felt quite loose before the incident and so we have a lot of things to look into now.
Pastor Maldonado, P1 - 1:38.446, 18th; P2 - 1:38.387, 21st
An engine problem caused me to stop early in P2. Its my first time at Suzuka so I really need some more laps. Well have our work cut out in tomorrows final session.
Mark Gillan, Williams chief operations engineer
Weve had a difficult start to the weekend with not as much running as we had hoped for. Accordingly, we have now revised the running plan going into P3. We did improve the set-up between sessions one and two with some aero development and mechanical adjustments on the cars.
Timo Glock, P1 - 1:40.872, 21st; P2 - 1:37.440, 19th
It wasnt a trouble-free first session as I had a water leak and I wasnt able to run much. This cost us a bit of time and we had to carry work over to the second session in the afternoon, so we had a very tight schedule this afternoon. I think we are heading in a reasonable direction even though we still have to improve the car. The team did a great job today and fixed the problems very quickly. Lets see how it goes tomorrow.
Jerome dAmbrosio, P1 - 1:41.019, 22nd; P2 - 1:38.093, 20th
I think the first session went quite smoothly. The second session was busy and Im not happy yet with the balance of the car, so weve got a bit of work to do on that. But definitely there is room to improve for tomorrow so we will get down to work tonight and try to get the best out of what we have. I really enjoy racing here - Suzuka is an incredible track.
John Booth, Virgin team principal
Overall quite a pleasing Friday. Both cars have managed to complete their full programmes and, particularly with Timo, we have arrived at a good set-up for this track. The morning was as ever taken up with trying various aero components and we still have quite a lot of data from this work to analyse overnight. In the morning we had a small issue with a water leak on Timos car which meant that he had to finish part of his FP1 programme in FP2. However, he worked well with his crew and engineers to recover this time - even adding extra runs to fine-tune the set-up before his qualifying simulation. Jerome has been less happy on the Medium tyre in FP2 and we will need to go back through his runs carefully tonight to try and understand the differences to Timo.
Daniel Ricciardo, P1 - 1:41.106, 23rd; P2 - 1:38.763, 22nd
My day went pretty well; luckily it went better than Tonios who unfortunately had to retire early on. So Im happy to have completed both sessions. The car doesnt feel too bad but were still quite a bit off the pace of our closest rivals so we need to make a big step to close the gap on them. Im not sure where well find this lost time; some of it could be in my driving. But we all need to work together on this to close that gap and hopefully we can achieve it to have a competitive race.
Vitantonio Liuzzi, P2 - 1:42.480, 24th
Unfortunately today was too short to have any information on the car. After three laps we had an issue with the water pressure so we had to stop the car on the track. Two laps arent enough to judge how the car is but the good thing is that in those two laps we were up to pace. Its a shame because this is a circuit where you need to do kilometres to get some rhythm going so it wont be an easy weekend after this short practice session but well see where we are tomorrow morning.
Narain Karthikeyan, P1 - 1:41.775, 24th
"Being back in the car is always good, even if it is just for one session. This morning, I did my bit for the team at Suzuka and getting some more kilometres under my belt and recovering the feeling ahead of the Indian GP. Suzuka has a lot of high-speed corners and it was good to drive around a fast circuit. However, I enjoyed it a lot and I hope that the work we did this morning provided enough data for the team to work on."
Colin Kolles, HRT team principal
"Today's sessions have left us with a bittersweet taste. Daniel was making his debut at Suzuka and we weren't expecting him to be up to the pace from the beginning. And in the afternoon he covered more laps than any other driver on track and assessed different configurations and tyres, which has been quite positive. Obviously, the down side is that Tonio couldn't manage many laps today. He left his place to Narain in the morning and then had to stop just three laps into FP2 due to a water pressure drop. We are looking into it now and we'll get it fixed for him to get the most of the available track time tomorrow."
Paul Hembery, Pirelli motorsport director
Theres no question that Suzuka is an extremely tough track for the tyres, so were pleased with the way that our tyres have performed so far. In the morning using the medium tyre we saw drivers carrying out runs of around 20 laps on a track that was still green, without much rubber laid down, and in the afternoon the durability of the soft tyre was good too, with some drivers putting in more than 12 laps on heavy fuel loads as we expected. We will analyse all the data we collect tonight now, but from what we can see so far were anticipating between two and three stops during the race. Due to the nature of the pit lane here, we could end up seeing a multi-stop strategy from some of the teams, while others go longer.
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