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Friday analysis - even Mercedes surprised by level of dominance

03 Oct 2014

Three crashes, two red flags and light rain at the end made FP2 a scrappy session, but there was general relief that the weather was much more favourable than it had been yesterday.

Apart from those involved in the shunts - Caterham, Red Bull and Sauber - everyone got the majority of their programmes completed. The biggest concerns for the frontrunners? Mercedes’ mighty pace, and the impending arrival of Typhoon Phanfone, currently forecast to land after Sunday's Grand Prix. We take a team-by-team look at the early progress at Suzuka...

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, 1m 35.612s, P2/1m 35.078s, P1

Nico Rosberg, 1m 35.461s, P1/1m 35.318s, P2

Mercedes had two trouble-free sessions and ended the day so far ahead that even they were surprised at the domination of the F1 W05 Hybrids. Needless to say, both drivers were very happy.

Williams

Valtteri Bottas, 1m 36.576s, P4/1m 36.279s, P3

Felipe Massa, 1m 38.012s, P11/1m 37.700s, P14

Bottas was very chuffed with his FW36’s pace and the way in which new aero upgrades worked, but Massa said he had a problem with grip on his car in both sessions and was well down the order as a result.

McLaren

Jenson Button, 1m 37.649s, P8/1m 36.409s, P4

Kevin Magnussen, 1m 37.327s, P6/1m 36.714s, P8

Button was pleased with some further upgrades which made McLaren very strong in FP2, and Magnussen said he was also encouraged by them.

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel, 1m 37.686s, P9/1m 36.436s, P5

Daniel Ricciardo, 1m 37.466s, P7/1m 37.186s, P10

Vettel believes that Red Bull can do better than fifth, but admitted that Williams, Ferrari and McLaren were strong. Ricciardo said he made a mistake in letting his tyres cool too much while slowing down at the end of the lap to try and avoid a yellow flag further round the track, then getting on the power too hard. He damaged his RB10’s left-front suspension and front wing when he crashed into the outer wall in the last corner, and the first red flag came out subsequently when track workers moved the stricken car to a place of safety.

Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen, 1m 37.187s, P5/1m 36.529s, P6

Fernando Alonso, 1m 36.037s, P3/1m 36.637s, P7

Ferrari reported no major problems with either of their cars as they looked to ensure they have set-up solutions for the F14 T which will suit the varied conditions expected to descend on Suzuka over the remainder of the weekend.

Toro Rosso

Daniil Kvyat, 1m 37.714s, P10/1m 36.943s, P9

Jean-Eric Vergne (pm only), 1m 37.219s, P11

Max Verstappen (am only), 1m 38.157s, P12

Kvyat said he struggled with his STR9’s balance but was otherwise happy, while Verstappen was pleased with a performance that saw him lap only 0.433s slower than the Russian on his first FP1 outing which made him the youngest driver, at 17 years three days, to participate in an official Grand Prix meeting. The Dutchman said he drove within his limits, and was satisfied with what he achieved. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken exhaust valve at the end of the session which affected Vergne in the afternoon, as the Frenchman twice stopped with associated fuel pump issues and thus had a fragmented session.

Force India

Nico Hulkenberg, 1m 38.582s, P14/1m 37.504s, P12

Sergio Perez, 1m 38.324s, P13/1m 37.786s, P15

Hulkenberg was reasonably happy with what he achieved in both sessions, and said it gave the team direction for FP3. Perez lost a lot of time - 65 minutes - in FP2 with a gearbox electronic control problem, but bounced back well to lap only two-tenths slower than his team mate.

Lotus

Romain Grosjean, 1m 38.851s, P15/1m 37.563s, P13

Pastor Maldonado, 1m 39.097s, P17/1m 37.798s, P16

Lotus were mighty relieved to get 105 laps under the wheels of the E22, and generally both drivers were encouraged by the day’s performance.

Sauber

Adrian Sutil, 1m 39.046s, P16/1m 38.010s, P17

Esteban Gutierrez, 1m 39.318s, P18/1m 38.365s, P18

Both drivers struggled with their C33s’ balance and tyre warming, and Sutil said a lot of their problems were also down to the power unit. Gutierrez got into trouble entering the Spoon Curve in FP2 and put his car gently into the tyre wall.

Caterham

Marcus Ericsson, 1m 40.031s, P19/1m 39.069s, P19

Kamui Kobayashi (pm only), 1m 42.760s, P22

Roberto Merhi (am only), 1m 41.472s, P20

Ericsson was Caterham’s star, as Merhi again did a decent job in FP1, but local hero Kobayashi got caught out at the top of the Esses on his fourth lap and put his CT05 into the wall in FP2 hard enough to tear off the front wing and damage the left-rear suspension.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi, 1m 41.580s, P21/1m 39.306s, P20

Max Chilton, 1m 41.757s, P22/1m 39.333s, P21

Bianchi had an undisclosed reliability problem which hampered him a little in FP1, but he and Chilton proved remarkably well matched all day.