RACE DEBRIEF

    Valtteri Bottas topped the second and final practice session of the weekend at Suzuka in front of Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes again showed their dominance. Max Verstappen finished third in the session, ahead of Charles Leclerc.

    With FP2 not only the final practice session of the weekend, but the potential decider for the starting grid in the event that Sunday’s qualifying session is cancelled, the second practice session of the Japanese Grand Prix became a pivotal one.

    Furthermore, there was a predicted 40% chance of rain ahead of the session start – though teams weren’t to know that it wouldn’t materialise. Flying laps came thick and fast in the opening minutes of FP2 as a result, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel leading early on.

    READ MORE: The art of tackling Suzuka’s Esses

    When the Silver Arrows did emerge in anger, Bottas came within two-hundredths of Hamilton’s 2018 pole lap – having survived a slow speed spin earlier in the session – with a time of 1m 27.785s. This time around, Hamilton finished 0.100s off his team mate.

    In third, nearly three-tenths back but much improved from FP1, Red Bull’s Verstappen eclipsed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who led his team mate Sebastian Vettel by a couple of tenths with a late effort.

    Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix 2019

    Japan 2019

    Practice 2 results

    POSITION TIME
    1 Valtteri Bottas BOT Mercedes 1:27.785
    2 Lewis Hamilton HAM Mercedes +0.100s
    3 Max Verstappen VER Red Bull Racing +0.281s
    4 Charles Leclerc LEC Ferrari +0.356s
    5 Sebastian Vettel VET Ferrari +0.591s

    As for Alex Albon, he was three-tenths slower than his Red Bull team mate and six-tenths off the pace in his first visit to Suzuka.

    In P7, Carlos Sainz once again set himself apart from the rest of the midfield, the McLaren driver 0.248s faster than the next best driver, Racing Point’s Sergio Perez. Putting that into perspective, just over half a second split Perez and 17th-place Renault driver Daniel Ricciardo.

    The top 10 was rounded out by Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, who returned to his seat after Naoki Yamamoto’s FP1 cameo, and Lando Norris of McLaren. Norris was 1.573s slower than leader Bottas at the flag, but a tenth faster than next-best Kimi Raikkonen.

    READ MORE: Introducing F1 360 – explore this year’s grid like never before

    A notable absence from the top 10 were Renault, who are seemingly struggling in their attempts to chase McLaren, as Nico Hulkenberg finished in P18, one place behind team mate Ricciardo.

    With the clouds looming ominously, teams began packing up swiftly after FP2 in preparation for Typhoon Hagibis' arrival. They’ll need to batten down the hatches and do their homework for Mercedes to be toppled on Sunday.

    FP2: Bottas spins off at the final turn in FP2
    FP2 HIGHLIGHTS: 2019 Japanese Grand Prix