What the teams said - Friday in Japan
Mercedes reasserted their dominance on Friday, finishing one-two in both opening practice sessions for the first time since the French Grand Prix. Bottas led the way from his team mate, extracting an extra turn of pace from the W10, but it was a close run thing. The Finn also demonstrated how treacherous this track can be when he lit up the rears and spun in FP2. Bar that, it was a very good day for the Silver Arrows who seem to have a big gap to the rest of the field.
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:28.731, P1; FP2: 1:27.785, P1
"It's been a very positive day for us. It's always so much fun to drive these cars on this track. I'm very happy with the car in general, it felt good from the beginning. I think we can still make some small tweaks to improve the balance of the car, but overall it felt good both on the short and the long runs. We used some of the tyres from Saturday today and the weather stayed nice, so we got plenty of running in which is great. We expect Sunday to be close in both qualifying and the race, so we need to keep pushing. We got an unexpected day off tomorrow but I'm sure the team will keep me busy; we'll be digging into the data and make the most out of it."
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:28.807, P2; FP2: 1:27.885, P2
"It's pretty amazing driving this track - we got a headwind through the esses in the first sector which has been great. It's been a good day overall, we got through our programme but it's a work in progress - there's always time to find at this track, there's always areas that you can improve. Valtteri showed some good pace and it seems we are in a good position at this point of the weekend. This is a track I really enjoy so I can't wait to get back in the car. We'll be analysing the data tonight and tomorrow to try and put ourselves into a good position for Sunday."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It's been more interesting than a normal Friday as we have had to adjust from the normal programme with the poor weather expected tomorrow. We'd already decided to bring a Saturday tyre set into Friday morning, even before we heard that all Saturday running was cancelled. That allowed us to do a bit more setup work than normal and it gave the drivers a bit more experience at low fuel. We then heard that the best times from the second session would be used to form the grid if qualifying cannot take place on Sunday morning. That meant we wanted to get decent times on the board so we turned the power unit up a bit and had to run lower fuel than we would normally run. The session itself was solid, the update kit we have brought here seems to be working well although neither driver felt they have got everything out of the car yet. We're going to be working our normal schedule tonight so that the cars are ready for a Sunday morning qualifying when we leave here around midnight. We'll be packing down some of the equipment tonight to avoid it getting damaged in the typhoon and making sure the cars and garage kit are safe from damage if we get a flood. We may not be allowed into the circuit tomorrow so that will mean having some meetings at the hotel to prepare for a very busy Sunday. It's always quite difficult to deal with both qualifying and race in a day but the challenge is good fun and we're looking forward to it. We hope everyone stays safe tomorrow and that the circuit survives the storm so we can put on a good show for the fans on Sunday."
Since the summer break, it has been all Ferrari but today they looked comfortably off the pace of their rivals. The gaps might worry the Scuderia - nearly a second back in first practice, and four tenths back in FP2. That is despite bolting on a set of softs and going for a flying lap at the end of the session when the track was at its best. They have a day's respite to try and find some answers...
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:29.720, P3; FP2: 1:28.376, P5
"Today, was not too bad, at least it was better than it looked. We are in reasonable shape, but maybe we are lacking a bit of pace overall. Our rivals looked very comfortable right from the start of practice and they confirmed that pace in FP2.
"I think we have a bit of room for improvement as it wasn’t an ideal session, in terms of how we made use of our tyres.
"I’m not sure what I’ll do tomorrow: relax and maybe do some indoor sports. On Sunday there will be a big question mark over the state of the track as tomorrow’s wind and rain will have an affect."
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:29.912, P4; FP2: 1:28.141, P4
"We made the most of our day. Knowing that qualifying has been postponed to Sunday due to the weather conditions, everyone approached free practice a bit differently to usual, especially for the second session. There will be no FP3 this weekend and if we can’t drive on Sunday morning for any reason, the results from FP2 will count for the starting grid.
"Our competitors were very strong today and we are not yet where we would like to be. I am not entirely sure where we are lacking in terms of our pace, but I know that some of the improvements will come from me working on my driving. Sunday will be busy, but in the end you always have the same routine before you get into the car, the same mindset. So we will go ahead as usual, working hard on improving in all areas and doing the best job possible to bring home a strong result."
A mixed bag for Red Bull. They were well off the pace in first practice, albeit comfortably ahead of the midfield. But roll on FP2 and Verstappen at least looked quick and closed the gap considerably to Mercedes out front. As for Albon, he fared well but complained about his seat being too big along with other niggles. Solve those and he should be happier come qualifying.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:30.046, P5; FP2: 1:28.066, P3
“I wasn’t totally happy with the balance initially today but we improved a lot from FP1 to FP2 which you can see from the lap times this afternoon. There are still improvements to be made and Mercedes are looking very strong, which is no surprise on this track, but we made a good recovery from this morning. The new Esso fuel also seems to be a good step forward in terms of power which is really positive. It’s only Friday so you can’t really tell where everyone is but we were all pushing a little harder in FP2 in case qualifying doesn’t happen on Sunday and these times set our grid positions. Because of the typhoon we won’t be on track tomorrow but we have a full day to look at the data and I will probably set up a FIFA tournament with some of the other drivers. I’m not worried about doing qualifying and the race on Sunday as it won’t affect my approach. We can’t change the weather and it’s out of our control, so now we just have to see what happens on Sunday.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:30.375, P6; FP2: 1:28.402, P6
“I’m quite happy with how today went and I’m loving the track so I can’t wait to get back out there. Sector one is really impressive and I’m enjoying myself. I got into a rhythm quite quickly and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable than I was in Sochi, but I still have some work to do. It’s my first time driving here and not running tomorrow means less time for me to learn the track which isn’t ideal. It will hurt us a bit but it’s the same for everyone and we’ll get on with it. Mercedes are very quick and they look good in the corners but our car is getting a lot better and I don’t think the balance is too far away. We’re making good progress and there’s still a bit more to come, so now it’s just about fine tuning things to find a couple more tenths. Let’s see if qualifying goes ahead on Sunday as P6 is maybe not quite what we wanted. If it’s dry I hope to be in the mix of things but this track looks tricky in the wet so if it rains it will be a bit more difficult. At the moment I’ve got nothing planned for tomorrow but I’ve heard there’s a bowling alley in our hotel so maybe we’ll do that!”
Sainz's day started badly, when the Spaniard was forced to pull over only a few metres down from the end of the pit lane with power issues. He was pushed back and lost half an hour of running as a result. Once going again, he looked quick and wound up 'best of the rest' in both sessions. Norris had a quieter day by comparison but certainly will fancy his chances of making the top 10 shoot-out in qualifying.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:30.702, P7; FP2: 1:29.051, P7
“I think it’s been a positive Friday – after a little heart attack at the start of FP1! We managed to get the car back to the garage, the mechanics did a great job to get everything ready and we went back out to complete our run programme. FP2 was also intense but I’m happy with how both sessions went. The car feels good and we looked competitive.
“However, not running tomorrow means there were different run plans today, so we can’t tell for sure where our competitors are. There is a bit of uncertainty but I’m confident we’ll be ready for Sunday.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:31.001, P10; FP2: 1:29.358, P10
“A good day. Everything we planned to do, we got through. We did the testing we needed to accomplish: high-fuel, low-fuel and got good readings and data from everything we did.
“I’ve only previously done FP1 here last year, so in terms of driving, I’ve got a bit to work on. I’m not quite as confident as I would want to be, so we’ll make some changes before Sunday for qualifying – if it happens. By improving my driving and the set-up, we can take a step forward.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director
“We’ve had a decent day. Carlos had an electrical issue which delayed his running in FP1, but otherwise everything went smoothly. The car behaved well both on low fuel and high fuel. It was, of course, an unusual day in that we had extra sets of tyres available from those that we usually allocate to FP3, and we also had to take into account that FP2’s times might count for grid positions.
“That meant there was a bit of racing mixed in with the usual Friday activities, which we enjoyed. Sunday is going to be another interesting day with qualifying and the race – we’re looking forward to it.”
Renault are the team with plenty of head scratching to do before Sunday's qualifying. Both drivers ran their initial qualifying simulations out of sync with the rest of the field and thus ended up at the back of the pack. They tried again towards the end of second practice, only for both drivers to encounter traffic. With the FP2 results being used to form the starting grid in the event qualifying is cancelled, Renault will have a nervous wait ahead of Sunday.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:31.426, P13; FP2: 1:30.334, P18
“It was a tough Friday for us. We made some changes between sessions that seemed to help. We had some balance problems with a lack of grip, especially in Sector One, but worked through it to end the day happier. The times aren’t strictly representative as we ran out of sync with the others. It’s a day off tomorrow with the typhoon coming in but we will look at everything in detail and be ready to go straight away on Sunday.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:31.563, P14; FP2: 1:29.859, P17
“We focused on getting in as much running as possible today knowing tomorrow is off. We improved the car in the afternoon after a difficult morning and found some decent progress. We decided to complete some long runs and then short runs towards the end of the afternoon. Unfortunately, both low fuel laps were compromised with traffic - we’re better than what the timesheets say - and I don’t think we’re too far off from where we want to be. Hopefully we can have a good qualifying and then be in a better position to race on Sunday.”
Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director
“Our pace on the long runs is actually looking pretty good, but we weren’t able to show our speed on the low fuel runs at the end of the session. We got stuck in traffic around others who were on long runs, so ended up monkeying around a little bit. We ran the new front wing, which did improve the handling when we found the right balance and set-up. With the revised weekend schedule, we have to put it all together at the right moment, but leave some flexibility to adapt to whatever the weather throws at us.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal
“It was a good, common sense decision to postpone qualifying until Sunday. With the predicted path of the typhoon it would not be wise to have cars on track nor spectators in the grandstands. Cancelling qualifying well in advance allows us to plan correctly and take the appropriate action for team personnel and fans alike.”
Yamamoto deputised for Gasly in first practice, in what was his F1 debut. The Japanese star acquitted himself well, keeping his nose clean and finishing only one-tenth behind Kvyat. Gasly made up for lost time in second practice, completing a busy programme and running the soft tyres late on to come home ninth. Kvyat bore the brunt of the data gathering for the team, running aero rakes in FP1.
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:31.920, P16; FP2: 1:29.512, P12
“It was a good session, we had a productive FP2 as we knew tomorrow is cancelled so we had an intense programme which was a bit different to usual, it was very busy and we completed many laps. In FP1 we were not where we wanted to be with the car, but in FP2 we made a good step and the car felt better, which was good progress. Overall, we were quite happy with the car and what we managed to do in FP2, we will see if there’s room for improvement for Sunday but going straight into Qualifying will be interesting! The conditions may be different to today, it could be windier, so it takes a bit of time to adapt and it will come down to how fast you will be able to find your rhythm.”
Pierre Gasly - FP2: 1:29.354, P9
“It was quite a chilled morning on my side watching FP1. It’s really great to drive around Suzuka, one of my favourite tracks, and even though I only had one session, it was very enjoyable and I’m really excited for Sunday. We knew FP2 would be really important as Saturday is cancelled, so we tried to do as many runs as we could. We did a combination of Qualifying and race preparation and we managed to do many laps and end up with the ninth fastest lap. However, the car was a bit tricky so we need to study everything we trialled today, as it’s OK but we can still find some more performance. We’ve got more time than usual to work and find the best solutions for quite a busy Sunday.”
Naoki Yamamoto - FP1: 1:32.018, P17
“I spent the session getting used to the car; the power is amazing! I was very surprised, I have never felt such power before, so that was the biggest difference between Super Formula and Formula 1. I learnt a few things about the car and the balance, and I gave as much feedback as possible to the team. This is my home Grand Prix and there are a lot of fans coming to Suzuka, even for FP1 on a Friday! I was really surprised and I would like to say thank you very much to all of the Honda and Toro Rosso fans. For sure I wanted to have a better result than 17th, but the most important thing is that I didn’t crash and I provided good information for the engineers. I wish the team a great result this weekend, especially Pierre as he gave me his car - I am grateful to him.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“It was great to welcome Naoki san to the team and give him the opportunity to drive the STR14 in FP1 – the atmosphere around the paddock and garage created by Naoki driving the STR Honda in Suzuka was fantastic. He drove Pierre’s car and did an extremely solid job for the team. From his first lap you could tell he was on it and he built up the pace lap to lap during this run. Switching to the Option compound for the second run, he extracted the expected improvement in grip from the track and tyre, setting a competitive lap time. He obviously knows the circuit well but this was an impressive session for his first outing in an F1 car!
“Daniil’s main aim in FP1 was to complete some aero testing, which included running a rake at the start of the session. General balance was understeer in the car during the session and, even with aero and mechanical changes, we were unable to get a good balance on the car and this was reflected in the lap time – particularly in sector 1. We could see there were a selection of rear wing levels being run across the field and this caused a spread of competitiveness sector to sector, which we would have to analyse for FP2.
“We received the news that Saturday running would be cancelled, which meant we could bring the FP3 tyres forwards and use them in FP2, so each car had three new Options and one new Prime, making FP2 a very busy and exciting session. We made a number of changes to both cars for FP2 with the target of improving the front end – understeer here is very penalising. Daniil used his four new tyres at the start of the session, where he used them in quick succession, tuning the balance between each and ending up with a car he was happy with. For Pierre, given he had missed FP1, he preferred to use two new tyres at the start of the session, saving the final two Options for the end of the session after completing more laps and building confidence in the car. We knew there was a risk with this approach given the likely traffic of others on high fuel, but in the end we could find good track position and he was able to get the most out of it. The changes improved the front end and general performance, which was positive, but we were hoping for a little bit more performance from the car than we showed today. This was the final running before Qualifying, so we have a lot of analysis to do tonight and prepare the cars for an early start on Sunday!”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“We are very pleased to be racing at our home track here in Suzuka. Due to the threat of the typhoon, all track activity is cancelled tomorrow, therefore we changed our programme today, running our entire qualifying and race set up in FP2. It’s a shame for the Japanese fans who have been looking forward to this weekend and it is a shame for us too at our homes race, but safety concerns must come first. In terms of today’s sessions, the initial signs are encouraging with both our teams looking competitive. As for Naoki Yamamoto, who drove an F1 car, the Toro Rosso, for the very first time today, he was able to do a good job and provide useful feedback for the engineers. From a personal point of view it was enjoyable to work with a Japanese driver in F1, speaking in Japanese!”
Racing Point continued their recent resurgence, with Perez in the top 10 in both sessions and Stroll not far behind. Whether they can stay there when everyone turns up their engine modes remains to be seen, but at first glance, the team are still heading in the right direction.
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:30.810, P8; FP2: 1:29.299, P8
“I think we can be quite happy with the performance today – certainly compared to the teams we expect to be racing on Sunday. With the rain due to arrive later tonight, and qualifying cancelled tomorrow, there’s still a chance that qualifying might not take place on Sunday morning. If this happens, then today’s practice results will make up the grid. If that is the case, then eighth place is not a bad place to start the race. It’s close in the middle of the grid – with half a second covering about ten cars – so it’s going to be a close battle whatever happens on Sunday.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:30.959, P9; FP2: 1:29.597, P14
“It was a good day. I think the car is working well, but we need to see what happens with the weather on Sunday. There are question marks about whether qualifying will even happen – because we don’t know if the storm will have cleared by Sunday morning. It certainly made things a little bit more interesting in FP2 and we had to think more about qualifying today. With everything cancelled tomorrow, it’s quite a strange feeling. There are not a massive amount of things to do in the hotel and we won’t be going outside. So I guess we will hang out and watch some movies until the weather improves.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“It has been quite an unusual day. The Super Typhoon is closing in on Japan and the organisers took the sensible decision to call off track activities on Saturday. With qualifying and the race taking place on Sunday, it means we lose the final practice session. We knew this just as first practice began, so we hastily adjusted our programmes to ensure we completed our qualifying preparations today. Now it’s a case of wait and see what happens when the typhoon hits and how long it takes to clear us. I’m hopeful that we can still have the race on Sunday, but obviously the safety of the fans and everybody involved in the sport will take priority.”
Giovinazzi only managed a handful of laps in first practice after he suffered hydraulic issues. The team worked frantically but couldn't get him back out in that session. Roll on FP2 and it was Raikkonen's turn to suffer reliability woes, which fortunately didn't cost him much time. When on track, the Finn looked quick which bodes well for Sunday.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:31.307, P12; FP2: 1:29.477, P11
“It was a fairly straightforward Friday for me. We did a bit more running than we originally planned to make up for the lack of FP3 tomorrow, but in the end the change of plans did not affect us much. We’re just outside the top ten and the gaps are very small. We will try and find some more performance with the engineers, as you can always make some progress after practice, but it’s impossible to say where we’ll be come qualifying. We’ll just wait and see what happens on Sunday – it will be close.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:36.887, P20; FP2: 1:29.651, P15
“We lost most of the running in FP1 due to a hydraulic leak, which is never the best way to start a weekend. Suzuka is a new track for me and it’s quite a challenging one, so it would have been important to have as many laps as possible: at least we tried to make up for the lost time in the afternoon, and we had some good mileage in FP2. Even after only two sessions, I can say Suzuka is the best track I ran on in F1 so far. Unfortunately, the weather means we’ll sit the day out tomorrow and miss FP3, which doesn’t make my weekend any easier. In any case, we will push to find the best setup tonight and get a good result in both qualifying and the race on Sunday.”
Grosjean had a solid day, knocking on the door of the top 10 in both sessions. Magnussen encountered traffic on his flying laps and couldn't match his team mate for pace. But with both cars returned in one piece and with more positivity coming over the radio, it was a decent day for Haas. But given the unpredictable nature of their car, that might not be the case on Sunday if conditions change dramatically.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:31.283, P11; FP2: 1:29.553, P13
“I actually think it was a super exciting Friday. I think it would be cool to have Saturdays like this, with FP1 in the morning and then FP2 in the afternoon, where you have extra tires and the result is your qualifying. You can work on the car, and at the same time push hard, I was trying different things. I thought it was quite a cool day. There’s obviously a little bit more pressure on that as free practice. This morning the car was good, but in the afternoon I was expecting a little bit more to be fair, I wanted to have three-four more tenths. We just didn’t have it, it’s a bit of a shame in that aspect. We’ll keep working and we’ll see if we actually do have qualifying on Sunday morning or not.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:31.785, P15; FP2: 1:29.749, P16
“It was a bit of a strange one, considering we now have a cancelled day tomorrow. We had to go for it a little bit in FP2 in case that sets our starting position – who knows if Sunday morning will be ready for action. I hope we get another shot as we didn’t really get much out of it. It was interesting having more tires and using those in FP2, but we weren’t so quick, our pace wasn’t great. Let’s see what the weather does on Sunday and go from there.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“A very different FP1 and FP2 than normal, as obviously we won’t have FP3 and qualifying tomorrow. Overall it was a pretty good day, we didn’t have any issues. All we can do now is wait and see what the weather is doing, hopefully everyone stays safe. We’ll be back to continue this on Sunday.”
Russell concentrated on data gathering in both sessions, his FW42 liberally covered in flow-vis paint. Kubica had a bit of a late start to second practice, but once he got going managed a full programme. With limited parts, both drivers kept out of trouble which was the main thing for the team.
Robert Kubica - FP1: 1:33.484, P19; FP2: 1:30.916, P19
Today was a busy day as qualifying is postponed until Sunday because of the weather risk. We had to fit in more runs and use more tyres, like everyone else, so it was busier and more varied than usual. We do not know what the weather will do on Sunday, so we adapted our Friday programme, adding short runs with low fuel to get a good lap time in case qualifying is cancelled. Sunday will be a compact day with lots of action, and let’s hope that the weather clears up.
George Russell - FP1: 1:32.800, P18; FP2: 1:31.071, P20
"It was great experiencing Suzuka for the first time. It’s an incredible circuit, one of the best I’ve ever driven. I was pretty pleased with my laps, although the pace was probably not as strong as I was expecting. We did a lot of aero running; in FP1, we back-to-backed the front-wings across both cars to gather more info, as we had different sensors on each. We’re still yet to have the full analysis as there is a lot of data to gather, but the guys have got all day tomorrow to look at it to see what is what! We did everything that we wanted to today so that was spot on."
Mario Isola, Head of f1 and Car Racing
"The postponement of qualifying and cancellation of FP3, which was absolutely the right decision under the circumstances, affected the run plans for free practice. Teams not only had to ensure a banker lap, just in case the FP2 times are used to set the grid, but also had to prepare for the race. Despite that, it's very hard to know exactly what the race conditions will be on Sunday, and how useful today's running will have turned out to be. The performance gap between the different compounds is not quite as relevant as usual: the hard compound has not been used much today, while the comparison between the soft and medium tyres was very much influenced by track evolution during FP1, as well as by teams using the soft at the end of FP2 to set a time that could form the grid, should qualifying not be held on Sunday morning. There's obviously now a big air of unpredictability about the whole weekend, which will hopefully lead to an exciting race."