Mercedes drivers enjoy ‘very positive day’ as Silver Arrows dominate in Suzuka
Mercedes need to outscore rivals Ferrari by 14 points at the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend to earn their sixth straight constructors’ title. And the team laid a solid foundation for achieving that goal on Friday at Suzuka, as Valtteri Bottas led a Mercedes one-two across both of the day’s free practice sessions.
With Mercedes bringing an update to Suzuka centred around changes to their cars’ barge boards, the W10s looked supreme around the iconic track throughout Friday. Bottas headed Lewis Hamilton in Free Practice 1, with the pair nearly a second clear of the field. The Finn then repeated the trick in the afternoon session, as Ferrari could only manage fourth and fifth, with Charles Leclerc 0.356s off Bottas in P4, behind the Red Bull of Max Verstappen.
It’s always so much fun driving these cars around Suzuka – especially when the car feels good
That was a result that was potentially even more important than normal, given that the FP2 results will count as the starting grid should qualifying – already shunted to Sunday morning due to the approaching Typhoon Hagibis – be cancelled altogether. And it left potential polesitter Bottas feeling very chuffed with his day’s work as he headed into Friday evening.
“Very positive day,” he said. “We tried the new bits in the car we had for this weekend. Glad the weather stayed good, so we got plenty of running and used, obviously, some tyres from Saturday as well. Good running, felt good since the beginning, pretty happy with the car in general. Just a few minor things with the balance to tweak, but both short and long runs at least today felt good.
“It is good fun,” he added. “It’s always so much fun here driving these cars, very enjoyable, and especially when the car feels good, it’s even more.”
Bottas did have one minor setback on Friday, when he half spun his car as he prepared for a flying lap, causing both him and Hamilton to miss out on their runs. But Hamilton was nonetheless similarly buoyed by his and his team mate’s performance at Suzuka so far.
“It’s still pretty amazing driving this track,” he said. “We’ve had the right tail wind into Turn 1, which means a head wind through the first sector, which has been great, and we’ve got through our programme. Valtteri had a little spin on one of our laps that we were about to start, both of us. But nonetheless it’s been a good day, Valtteri showed good pace. It’s quick, for us, at the moment.”
Tomorrow, I’m sure the team will keep me busy somehow
Bottas and Hamilton will now enjoy the luxury of a day off on Saturday, following the cancellation of all on-track activities at Suzuka as the circuit owners wait for the typhoon to pass over. But while Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz were talking of bedding in for a mammoth game of FIFA, Bottas was planning to use his day off to stretch Mercedes’ advantage even further…
“For sure we tried to do everything we could today in the session, prioritise things and really try to be efficient with the time,” he said. “I think we did the job and that means there’s lots of work to be done before the quali for Sunday morning, if it happens. Tomorrow, I’m sure the team will keep me busy somehow. I’m sure we’ll take advantage of the extra time to look at things we could do better.”
Should Mercedes take their sixth straight title this weekend, they’ll equal Ferrari’s current record, from when the Scuderia claimed back-to-back constructors’ crowns between 1999-2004.
Constructors' standings before Japan
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