No real problems here, though Ericsson felt unlucky with yellow flags in FP2. It’s down to the number-crunching tonight to see how well they can go tomorrow.
Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:36.294, P18; FP2: 1:36.318, P22
“It has been a decent day. In the morning we tried different configurations on the aerodynamic side, which we have to evaluate more in-depth. Later on in FP2, I was a bit unlucky with the yellow flags, so it was difficult to get a feeling for the car on low fuel. The long run on medium tyres felt ok, but we need to have a closer look at the data.”
Felipe Nasr - FP1: 1:35.967, P15; FP2: 1:34.824, P19
“It has been a productive day here in Suzuka. FP1 was mainly about testing different set-ups in order to get a better read for the balance of the car. In the afternoon we concentrated on short and long runs on different tyre compounds for qualifying as well as race preparation. Now we have to analyse the data collected, so that we can find improvements for the rest of the weekend.”
Sainz said he was happy with the STR11’s Friday performance, but unsure how quick they would be tomorrow. Kvyat had gearbox problems at the end of FP1which required the unit to be changed for FP2, and also had issues with an 'octopus' - a strand of rubber which wrapped itself around the aerial ahead of him on his car’s scuttle and flapped around irritatingly.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:35.672, P12; FP2: 1:34.086, P10
“A challenging day - obviously a track like Suzuka is always defiant regarding the set-up and driver, but I’ve definitely enjoyed it a lot out there today. Driving here is one of the most exciting weekends of the year for me - I really enjoy every single lap, it doesn’t matter if it’s during a short run or a long run, it’s just fantastic! I’m happy with today. We’ve been able to complete plenty of laps without any problems and, from a performance point of view, I think it’s looking very similar to Malaysia: we look good on Friday, but we know it won’t be easy to do the same all weekend long - finishing today in the top ten is very nice and we’ll do our best to maximize the potential of the car during the rest of the weekend.”
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:35.446, P11; FP2: 1:34.305, P14
“It was a decent Friday, we did a good job. My running was slightly compromised in FP2, but we know that in tomorrow’s FP3 we will be back to normal and we will see where we are compared to the others. We’ve collected plenty of data regarding the tyres, which is what we wanted, and we now have enough information to analyse tonight. Considering what happened today…I will definitely go for some octopus sushi for dinner tonight!”
Phil Charles, Chief Race Engineer
“I am quite pleased as we have ticked off most, if not all, of our program targets today. Some aero work first thing in the morning and some decent tyre data on long runs this afternoon. In terms of our performance I think we are ok - it is a very tight midfield here and we know our now customary straight line speed deficit is a hindrance. However, the first sector is complementary to our package as we enjoy high-speed, sweepy cornering. We do have a little bit more work to do in sector 2 tonight though. Daniil had a gearbox issue on his car at the end of FP1. The mechanics managed to change the gearbox in time, but we were not able to maximize the set up for FP2. Hopefully, we can uncover a bit more performance in the setup and drivers in sector 2 tomorrow. Other highlights of the weekend so far for me have been how passionate and creative the Japanese fans are here and secondly the return of Daniil’s ‘octopus’ that you might have heard him talking about on the radio in P1. This is actually something which has visited him before in a race in 2014. It gave quite a high level of confusion back then when he said there is an octopus on the front of the car. It was only after the race that we truly understood what he was talking about - a collection of long and thin tyre rubber marbles had gathered on the aerial on top of the cockpit in front of him.”
Both drivers reported that it was a normal Friday, and said they were happy with the balance of the car. The real work now lies in maximising performance on the soft tyre.
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:35.381, P10; FP2: 1:34.028, P9
“I think it was a pretty straightforward Friday. We got everything done that we had planned and there were no big issues. Balance-wise, I’m already pleased with the car but we still need to focus on tyre performance. I think getting more performance out of the soft tyre over one lap is the key, and then on the long runs we need to get both of the compounds working at 100 percent.”
Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:36.169, P16; FP2: 1:34.127, P11
“It was a normal Friday. We were mostly just trying to understand the tyres, the different aspects of the car and doing the long runs. I think we need to analyse where we are compared to our competitors tonight because this weekend is going to be another fight, but I hope we can have a good one.”
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering
“It was a fairly normal Friday for us and we completed most of the work that we needed to in FP1 and FP2. We tested different suspension geometries and aerodynamic components, which we’ll have to analyse tonight, but everything looked reasonably good. In the afternoon we concentrated on the balance of the car and tyre performance, and it all went smoothly. Everything looks good on both low and high fuel runs so I think we are in our normal position, maybe a little bit further forward. The weekend has started quite well.”
Force India found a good balance early on, and both drivers said they had solid, problem-free days.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:34.530, P7 FP2: 1:33.873, P7
“There’s not a huge amount to say really because it was a routine, standard day of practice. We just worked through the run plan with no dramas and collected all the information on the different tyre compounds. We looked competitive, but it’s only practice, so I would expect much tighter margins tomorrow when we get to qualifying. I’m feeling positive, though, because we’ve started well and I’m already pretty happy with the car balance.”
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:34.767, P8; FP2: 1:33.570, P6
“It’s looking like a promising weekend based on our performance today. Of course, the track conditions were very good and you never know what the rest of the weekend will bring, but today everything was working well. We looked quite competitive in most conditions - on high and low fuel - and on all the tyre compounds. The set-up of the car was very good from the start of the day and we’ve not moved far away from this.”
Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal
“It’s been a pretty straightforward and satisfying day of practice. The team achieved the objectives of the run plan, which included some test items split between the two cars. It was encouraging to see that our baseline set-up was not too far away from ideal and both drivers were pretty content with the feel of their cars by the end of the afternoon. Track conditions were very good today with relatively consistent track temperatures and very little wind to upset the cars. The programme included the usual combination of performance runs and long runs across the three tyre compounds, which means we have plenty of information to help our decisions overnight.”
Ferrari had a tricky day. Raikkonen had a couple of offs in the hairpin and a sensor issue in FP2, and Vettel ran wide in the Degners in FP1, spoiling his best lap in that session. Both said that the balance needs further work.
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:33.817, P4; FP2: 1:32.573, P3
“It was one of those days that seem a bit tricky but in the end go for better. My feeling with the car was not very nice, I suffered a lot with understeer and I was struggling with the balance through the first sector, but the lap time was ok. In the end we got a bit better, but we are not still where we want to be. In the second session I had a small electric issue, likely with a sensor, but we changed it and it was ok. Tomorrow is another day, we'll try to work on small things to try to improve. If we get the car where we want and with a better feeling for sure we can go quite a bit faster.”
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:33.525, P3; FP2: 1:33.103, P5
“Overall, l I am not entirely happy with the balance of the car today, but I am sure this is something we can work on. I didn't try the medium compound, we focused more on the soft tyre in the morning, and on the very hard tyre in the afternoon. We tried to do our homework, but the balance is not there yet. We will now need to look at the data and see where we are, also compared to the others. Ideally you would always love to have more grip around here, because it feels fantastic if you do, but I am sure we can tune the balance and distribute the grip a bit better, so that we will be in a better shape tomorrow. As for race expectations, a podium finish is always possible, there might even be rain at some point. It sure doesn't help if you start further at the back (because of the grid penalty), but overtaking is possible, even if it is not so easy.”
Verstappen said his car’s upshifts were “like a handbrake” in FP1, but ended the day feeling that the team was in very good shape. Neither he nor Ricciardo really got the best on their short runs because of the Virtual Safety Car that was triggered by Gutierrez’s problems, so they think they can get close to the Mercedes and ahead of Ferrari on short-run pace. Both drivers are praying for rain in qualifying.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:34.379, P6; FP2: 1:33.061, P4
“I think this has been one of the strongest Fridays so far. Everything seemed to work quite well, car set-up was good and we looked quick on both tyres today, even on the Hard. We were hampered by the Virtual Safety Car on our short runs so the tyres lost a bit of temperature, this meant we didn’t show our full potential. After Malaysia we are looking for another good result, this track should suit us and we are close to the top guys at the moment. Ferrari are in the mix, short runs look ok but I’m not sure how their long ones are going, I’m hoping we can handle them though. There are talks of rain for later in the weekend which for us I think will play into our hands, we can’t be sure but if it comes I think we can be even stronger in qualifying and the race.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:34.112, P5; FP2: 1:34.150, P12
“It’s good to be back at this circuit, I really like this place. We had a pretty good day today and a positive afternoon. We made some improvements from this morning and the lap we had to abort because of the Virtual Safety Car looked to be in the 32s which was close to Kimi’s time. Our long run pace towards the end of FP2 on the hard tyre looked pretty solid as well. If we can hook the car up for quali, we can be close to Mercedes and probably be ahead of the Ferraris, we can definitely squeeze a bit more out of the car tomorrow. There have been improvements from our side and the Ferraris so we expect the rest of the season to be tighter. If it rains for quali, it won’t hurt us and we might even be able to get on the front row. I’m ready either way, this place is fun in both wet and dry conditions.”
Grosjean had yet another brake drama at the Degner curves in FP1, which saw him nose into the tyre wall and damage his front wing. In the afternoon it was Gutierrez’s turn for problems as he rolled to a halt on the approach to the same section with a turbo problem.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:35.688, P14; FP2: 1:34.241, P13
“First off, this is always a great track to drive. We have a lot of fun around here. Clearly, we had some issues with the brakes today, which didn’t make our life easy, but eventually we worked our way around it. We still have a lot of work to do tonight trying to balance the car. It’s one of those tracks where the timing is very tight. Two-tenths of a second can make a big difference. Let’s hope we find those.”
Esteban Gutierrez - FP1: 1:36.219, P17; FP2: 1:34.643, P17
“It was quite a tricky day. We’ve been trying to experiment a little bit, trying to find the best compromise in every area of the car. We now have a pretty good idea. We tested a few things so we can get ready for tomorrow. Unfortunately, we ended up with a failure in the afternoon, but this will not harm us in continuing our program for Saturday and our focus on qualifying.”
Guenther Steiner, team principal
“In general we had a good testing session. In FP1 though, Romain had an issue with his brakes. He went long and into the barrier and broke his front wing. Nothing else was damaged, so that was a straightforward fix with a change of front wing. We obviously lost a bit of time. In FP2, Romain’s car was flawless but Esteban had a problem. We had an issue with the turbocharger, which we’re still investigating why and where it came from. We had to stop his session as he was stranded out on the track. With the rest we learned quite a bit. We still have to work on the setup for tomorrow and the balance of the car, but we’re not looking too bad.”
Both drivers felt that they had arrived at a decent set-up for today’s track conditions, with decent direction for the rest of the weekend.
Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:37.966, P21; FP2: 1:35.292, P20
“I’ve been really looking forward to getting out on track here. It’s not an easy circuit to master but I’m quite happy so far and I have a much better feeling with the car than the last race. We seem to have made some progress, which is good. It’s an awesome track to drive; a fantastic challenge and some fun corners. I’m feeling pretty positive about it, even though it’s not one of the most well-suited for our car.
“The most important thing is that we’ve found a good set-up and we’ve improved step-by-step through the two sessions. I’m also certain that we can squeeze a few drops more from the car in FP3 and be better for qualifying. So with a good run at tomorrow morning, it can go well for us here, I hope.”
Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:37.797, P20; FP2: 1:35.400, P21
“I love everything about the fans, the track and Japan in general. I thought I might, but now I’m here I can’t get enough of the place. I really enjoyed my first day of practice here; it’s a really technical and demanding track. I love chicanes in general and these are pretty quick, so I’m really enjoying driving them.
“We’ve tried a few different things on set-up and I think we’ve ended up in a good place as far as direction for tomorrow goes. Our long pace looks promising. There’s still some work to do on our qualifying pace, but I’m optimistic that we can have a good fight on Sunday.”
Dave Ryan, Racing Director
“A reasonably good start to our weekend here in Suzuka. Pascal and Esteban seem to have got to grips with this track quite well and are enjoying it, plus they’re responding well to the steps we’ve taken to improve the car since Sepang. It wasn’t all plain sailing today; there are a few things we need to work on. But looking at the big picture, we seem to have made some progress since Malaysia and that’s good to see.”
Rosberg worked to reduce “monster understeer” in FP1 and later reported some engine cutting-out, but said he was otherwise happy. Hamilton said he’d had a really good day, despite complaining early on of low power. The W07 Hybrid seems better here on the soft tyre compounds, but not as strong as it was in Malaysia on the harder rubber.
Nico Rosberg - FP1: 1:32.431, P1; FP2: 1:32.250, P1
“It’s been a case of finding my way today. It began with quite a lot of under-steer and we had to work through the setup in order to find a better balance on the car. In the afternoon, the medium tyre didn’t seem as strong as the hard as we saw in Malaysia. However, on the soft tyre we showed strong one-lap pace, the balance felt good and the track was really exciting to drive. It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:32.646, P2; FP2: 1:32.322, P2
“It’s been a really good day with no problems on the car which is great. We managed to get plenty of laps in but there’s still some work to be done overnight in order to find more pace. That’s a work in progress and hopefully we’ll be going into Sunday in good shape. It’s great to be here in Japan and I’m excited to get out on track again for qualifying tomorrow.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical)
“It’s great to be back here at this fantastic circuit with all the amazing and enthusiastic fans at every turn. It was nice to get some dry weather which we didn’t get last year and it allowed us to run through our programme and execute to plan, looking at all three tyres on both single and long-run pace. At this stage, our strategy for Sunday still remains wide open and we need to go through all the data overnight in order to start making plans for the race.”
Magnussen was happy with his car in both sessions, and cautiously optimistic for the rest of the weekend. Palmer’s learning process was hampered by a wiring loom failure in FP1, but he completed 40 laps in the afternoon and likewise felt he’d reached a reasonable set-up by the end of FP2.
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:36.822, P19; FP2: 1:34.339, P15
“We completed a lot of running today and it went pretty well. I ended the day 15th fastest, which is always nice to see but it’s only Friday and a bit too early to draw any conclusions. The car feels good; we have a bit of work to do now to get ready for tomorrow’s qualifying but things so far are encouraging.”
Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:37.992, P22; FP2: 1:34.760, P18
“It was a shame to lose time in Free Practice 1 this morning as I’d never properly driven here before. In contrast, everything was good in the afternoon and there’s more pace in the car than my lap time showed. It’s quite a technical circuit so I need to get the sequences just right, which is something to work on tomorrow. Otherwise, it feels as though we have a similar pace to that we had in Malaysia at this point. It bodes well for the rest of the weekend.”
Bob Bell, Chief Technical Officer
“We got through most of the programme today despite losing time on Jolyon’s car with an electrical problem. It cut his session short during FP1 and lost us time normally used for information-gathering, but we recovered well in the afternoon and got what we needed in terms of data for qualifying and the race. It wasn’t the best start to the weekend but we have a good idea on what we need to do over the next two days. The balance of the car is reasonably strong and I think that we will be able to maintain the level of progress we have seen in the last few races.”
Alonso ran the new-spec engine that he tried on Friday in Malaysia. The Spaniard spun backwards into the tyre wall in the Spoon Curve in FP1, possibly because of an aero problem with the rear wing. Damage was light, however, but he said his set-up still needs plenty of work and is worried that if it rains tomorrow they will not be able to assess any changes they make. Button said his one-lap pace wasn’t too bad but that work is needed for the long runs.
Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:35.003, P9; FP2: 1:33.985, P8
“It’s been a tough day, generally. Our most important objective for this afternoon was to understand the compounds across the length of a long-run, and we did that. Nonetheless, we’re not yet happy with the set-up and we need to do some more work this evening.
“We’re still investigating the cause of this morning’s spin - it looks like there were some aerodynamic issues with the rear wing. Luckily, we didn’t damage the car and could continue running until the end of FP1.
“We need to find something extra tonight - let’s just hope it doesn’t rain in FP3 tomorrow as we need to understand the changes we make tonight ahead of qualifying and the race.
“Getting into Q3 could be quite difficult now.”
Jenson Button - FP1: 1:35.677, P13; FP2: 1:34.398, P16
“On single-lap pace, the car doesn’t actually look too bad - I just didn’t get a great lap this afternoon. But if we can get a good lap together - which we’ll hopefully do tomorrow - we may be able to get into the top 10.
“However, our long-run pace is more of an issue - and that’s something we need to solve as it’s usually a forte of mine, and it wasn’t today. The degradation is significant, we’re some way off, and we’re looking into the reasons why. I think there’s something not quite right, as opposed to there being a set-up issue; but hopefully we can fix it by tomorrow.
“I’d love it to rain - that would help us have a chance of a good result here.”
Eric Boullier, Racing Director
“It’s always fantastic to arrive at Suzuka: the colour, the fans, the banners, the gifts, they all add up to making the experience special every single time. This year is no different, and it’s been extremely encouraging to see the rising number of people wearing McLaren-Honda caps and T-shirts in the grandstands today.
“Turning our attention to the racetrack itself, Fernando suffered a small ‘off’ during the morning’s session - an unexpected lack of grip between the two Spoon corners caused him to lose the rear end and skim the barriers. Fortunately, the damage was minimal - just a broken rear-wing end-plate - and caused minimal delay.
“In the afternoon, both drivers worked hard to improve balance and driveability. While not completely successful, the changes enabled us to make progress, and we go into the evening looking to improve our cars’ set-up further ahead of tomorrow’s qualifying session.”
Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer
“The fans here at Suzuka have given us such a warm welcome, and I am very happy to be back at our home race in Japan.
“As usual, it's tricky to know where we stand after Friday running because of the changeable track conditions during the weekend, and the testing of various set-ups on both cars.
“Fernando was happier with his balance and we were able to run stable lap times, so we can say that he had a fairly decent Friday’s running. Jenson was less satisfied, especially with the tyre conditions, but his time gap to Fernando was not so off, so we are expecting him to improve during tomorrow’s running.”
Paul Hembery, motorsport director
“The drivers experienced quite slippery conditions at the beginning of free practice. This improved as more rubber was laid on the surface. Continuing the pattern that we have seen frequently this season, last year’s pole time was already beaten in FP1, but with rain due tomorrow, we are likely to see a different type of challenge in qualifying. Today there was a lot of work on the hard compound, which seems to be a very good race tyre in these conditions. However if we experience cooler conditions on Sunday, then the track could swing back towards the medium compound.”