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What the teams said - practice in Japan

06 Oct 2017

A round-up of the opening day's events from the 2017 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, where heavy rain meant only five drivers recorded lap times in FP2...

Ferrari

Vettel said he was quite happy with the feel of his car and the way things ran, and that the plan was on course thus far in the weekend. Raikkonen complained a little of oversteer on the soft tyres, but ran well on the supersofts.

Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:29.166, P1

“I think we had a decent morning. We tried a lot of things and it was good to feel the power of the car. This afternoon was expected to be wet. We would have loved to run a little bit more, but you can’t do the right amount of driving, because you don’t want to ‘burn’ your tyre supply in these conditions. The results of the last two races were not good, but the car is strong. We have every reason to be confident and I am sure that on Sunday we’ll be able to show what we can do. If tomorrow’s qualifying is wet, then we should improve. The last qualifying in wet conditions happened in Monza and it was not a good result. In Malaysia it was a little bit better, but we hope we learned our lesson. It’s up to us to get it right. Whatever the weather will be, I hope we can show our potential.”

Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:29.638, P4

“Today we were expecting to have difficult conditions in the afternoon, so we focused on the morning session. We did a little bit more running and generally, we worked on our programme like every other Friday. Overall it was not bad and the feeling was ok. In the afternoon we did not even try to learn anything; we are limited on tires and we have to save the full wet compound in case qualifying is run in wet conditions. It’s a pity because we did not do a lot of laps, but at least we have got some ideas. As for tomorrow, let’s wait and see what happens in the morning and then through the day. Whatever it will be, we are going to do our best.”

Mercedes

Mercedes spent all week deliberating about their aero configuration for FP1 and FP2, and very late on finally decided to go for the new upgrade that was introduced unsuccessfully, in Sepang. As it transpired, Hamilton was only two-tenths off Vettel in FP1, though the German claimed to have lost time passing Ericsson in the final sector. Hamilton said the car felt back to normal and was happy with his day. Bottas said the car felt a lot better than it had in Sepang, but that he didn’t really gain grip when he switched to the supersofts.

Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:29.377, P2; FP2: 1:48.719, P1

"It's been an interesting day, the car is feeling much better than it was in Malaysia. I'm glad that we had the dry session for FP1. In FP2, there was a lot of rain, but it felt really important to go out and assess the track and see how the car was feeling as the car was not good in the wet in Malaysia. The car feels back to normal, so I'm ready to race. The fans are pretty special here - to be out there in the rain, waiting for us to go out through the whole of FP2. That's also another reason I wanted to go out and at least give them a little bit of a show. So hopefully at least they got to see something as not many cars went out."

Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:30.151, P5

"We didn't really run in FP2, so it's a shame for the fans out there who were waiting to see us running. In practice one, the car did feel better than it did in Malaysia, but we still need to work on things to make the car quicker. As a starting point for the weekend, it definitely feels better than a week ago. My run with the Soft tyres was good, but with the SuperSoft, I didn't really gain any grip. So the main thing for me is to understand the SuperSoft performance. The long runs actually weren't too bad, and hopefully we'll see better weather tomorrow."

James Allison, Technical Director

"The weather forecasts for today were actually pretty unpromising from quite a long way out. We weren't expecting much useful running at all in either of the sessions. So it was something of a blessing when we managed to get a largely dry FP1. We focused all our programme around trying to get as much race preparation as we could into that single programme. Although that may be an unusual session, it was actually quite a good one. Both cars getting their laps done, getting a feel for the car on high and low fuel and we were reasonably pleased with the initial balance and performance that the car is showing. Obviously after losing all of FP2 the rest of the weekend is still going to be something of a scramble, but at least we go into tomorrow knowing how we ought to set the car up for both qualifying and race."

Red Bull

Ricciardo was happy to be only 0.375s off Vettel, but worried that the performance had come because of too much downforce and that he thus lacked straight-line speed as a result, which suggested that the set-up might not thus have been optimal. Verstappen said he was quite happy and felt the car was competitive, but he lost his best lap when Sainz crashed.

Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:29.541, P3

“This morning in the dry we went out early because we thought the rain was going to come at the end of the session and we did quite a lot of running. Ferrari were quite strong and Mercedes always turn it up on a Saturday so we still have some pace to find, but the balance was pretty good and overall it was a good morning. We were losing a bit on the straight which I don’t think was all engine today, it looked like we had more downforce so we need to see if this is the best set-up for us or if we can find a better compromise for the corners and the straights. I do think next year they should change things a bit, we get an extra set of intermediate tyres on a Friday but not extremes which is why we didn’t run in FP2. There is a high chance of rain again tomorrow so we may need to save them for when it counts in Qualifying. It’s good that some cars ran but I think for everyone to go out in sessions like this we need an extra set of extremes. Any kind of uncertainty or changing conditions gives us options to take a bit more of a gamble, so let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”

Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:30.762, P6

“We didn’t do that many laps this morning but I was happy with the set-up straight away and I think we looked competitive. The red flag interfered with the programme a bit but we still managed to get some good data and I feel happy at the end of the day. We adapted plans this morning as we knew the rain was coming this afternoon and this means the washed out second session hasn’t impacted on our plans. Mercedes look strong as usual, Ferrari I’m not sure about but I think we are close and that is the positive thing. The track certainly feels faster this year with the updated cars, perhaps a second or so which is expected at a circuit like this. The warmer conditions on Sunday should help us and for now Qualifying looks dry so we can get on with some improvements tomorrow. There looked to be a lot of rivers on the track when it was raining so we just thought it wasn’t worth the risk of going out in those conditions. Last year was a very good race, I enjoyed it a lot and finished up on the podium so I hope for more of that this Sunday.”

McLaren

No problems here, and both drivers said they enjoyed the grip and balance in FP1’s dry section.

Fernando Alonso - FP1: 1:31.235, P12

“As predicted, we had a Friday with only one dry session, so we tried different things in the first session, and did as many laps as we could.

“In FP2, it was raining too hard so we couldn’t do much. We did a few laps at the end of the session, when it had stopped raining, but there wasn’t much purpose in running in the wet as it looks like it’ll be dry in the race, and probably qualifying too.

“The car was behaving well on a circuit where performance is mainly expressed in the fast corners of the first sector. It feels special because there’s so much grip out there.”

Stoffel Vandoorne - FP1: 1:31.202, P10

“So far, it’s quite difficult to know what to expect, especially as today’s running was very limited. FP1 was quite normal, without any trouble, but we only got to do an installation lap in the rain during FP2.

“The weather will be key tomorrow – it looks like it’ll be a dry race on Sunday, so qualifying will be super-important. Looking at the weather radar for tomorrow, it's still a bit difficult to predict, it should potentially be dry in quali tomorrow.

“The car felt nice around here. Suzuka’s a high-speed circuit with lots of direction changes and, especially with with the downforce and wider tyres we have this year, they’re very impressive in the first sector;very exciting to drive.

“Whatever happens, we’ll make the best of it this weekend.”

Eric Boullier, Racing Director

“As ever, at Suzuka, the weather can make things difficult – and this afternoon’s FP2 effectively became a complete washout due to the heavy rain. Luckily, we managed to get a few exploratory laps under out belts, which was useful for evaluating a few systems checks, but, like everyone else, we’ve got a lot of work to do tomorrow.

“Both drivers were relatively happy with their cars during this morning’s dry FP1 session – but, again, they’ve highlighted a few shortcomings which we’re still working to cure ahead of qualifying tomorrow.

“Nevertheless, I think we’ve made a solid start to the weekend.”

Yusuke Hasegawa, Honda R&D Co. Ltd Head of F1 Project & Executive Chief Engineer

“We have been looking forward to having our home Grand Prix at Suzuka. However, it was disappointing that we lost so much track time due to the rain today.

“With such a complex circuit layout, car set-up is key.Therefore, we will look to analyse the data that we were able to gather from today's session together with McLaren tonight.

“I’d like to thank all the home fans who visited the circuit in such poor weather conditions. It was great to see so much support. We hope to show them a good result in tomorrow's qualifying.”

Force India

Both drivers did as much work as they could in FP1 to beat the rain, and generally the team were happy with the way the day went.

Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:31.530, P13; FP2: 1:51.345, P3

“We knew it would be a difficult day because of the weather, so we chose to maximise the morning session to complete as much dry running as we could. We did some aero testing and we need to analyse the data to make sure we choose the right direction for tomorrow. The car was working well in the dry, but we need to make some changes tonight to make sure I am totally comfortable. When the rain arrived this afternoon, I went out to do a few laps just to get a feel for the balance in the wet conditions. There was a lot of standing water so we didn’t do many laps, but at least we have run on the wet tyres in case it rains again tomorrow.”

Esteban Ocon - FP1: 1:30.899, P7; FP2: 1:49.518, P2

“The morning session went well and we did a lot of work because we were expecting the rain later in the day. During FP2, we went out to experience the conditions and the car felt strong, so I’m not worried if the rain comes back tomorrow. If it’s wet or dry, we have a well-balanced car and we can be competitive. In the dry the car was not far away from where I wanted it to be – similar to how the car felt in Malaysia, so that’s a good sign. We didn’t have much time to work on the set-up adjustments, but I have a good feeling and we know where we need to focus tonight.”

Robert Fernley, Deputy Team Principal

“Another disrupted day with the heavy rain limiting our programme this afternoon and both cars completing just a handful of laps. Fortunately we had a dry morning session where we elected to bring forward some of the data gathering we would normally carry out during FP2. We combined this with some component testing of our new aero updates spread across both cars. The red flag and the light rain at the end of the morning compressed the session, but we are not in bad shape and have a reasonable amount of data to help us prepare for qualifying and the race. We went out in the wet conditions this afternoon just to get an idea of how the wet tyres are performing. Both drivers were happy in the wet and I think we are well prepared whatever the weather brings tomorrow.”

Renault

Both drivers did as much lappery as possible in FP1. Hulkenberg said he was happy with his car’s balance, but Palmer complained of traffic that didn’t enable him to lap as quickly as he wanted.

Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:30.974, P8

“FP1 was good. With the threat of rain expected in the afternoon, FP1 was a serious session, we ran quite a bit and did the testing we wanted to do. Everything felt ok, the balance was good so I wasn’t too unhappy. There isn’t much to say about the afternoon session, it was pretty wet and we wanted to conserve our tyres as there might be some rain again tomorrow.”

Jolyon Palmer - FP1: 1:31.757, P15

“There was a lot of traffic during FP1, but we were able to try different set-ups and I think we found a good direction. It was nice to get some dry running because we expect it to be wet again in FP3. In FP2 the grip level actually felt quite good despite the water, but we just decided to save the tyres because it could be wet again on Saturday, so we will keep them for qualifying.”

Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director

“The morning session was good today. We put a comprehensive programme together for FP1 because we knew we were going to have a wet FP2. We did a lot of work on set-up specific to this track, there are a lot of high speed corners so it’s a bit of a different track to optimise for. We completed tests on both cars, and it has given us good knowledge for where to run the car in the dry. For FP2, we wanted to try a little bit more of a wet set-up, but really it was too wet, so we just did the one lap to see where the rivers were and that was it.”

Williams

Williams ran reasonably well on the soft tyre, but their supersoft runs were interrupted by Sainz’s accident. Stroll was lucky to avoid the tyre wall in FP2 when his car aquaplaned on his first fast lap, but he recovered well on his second.

Felipe Massa - FP1: 1:31.912, P16; FP2: 1:52.146, P4

"It was not a very interesting day, to be honest. The first impression of the car here is that it is alright, but it’s difficult to say where we are compared to the others. It was interesting to see how the car will behave, but in the rain I only did one lap. There was a lot of aquaplaning and standing water, so there wasn’t much we could do, this was mostly a day of waiting. The forecast I just saw says it will rain this evening and stop for tomorrow, so maybe we will be driving in the dry. I hope that we can have a good day tomorrow."

Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:31.602, P14; FP2: 1:52.343, P5

"It was a good day. FP1 was very positive, the car felt good and I really enjoyed driving on the circuit, as it is a lot of fun and very special. Then, in FP2, there wasn't a lot of running with the rain, which was not easy as you never know where the limit is in such conditions. I just did one proper push lap and that was about it. It was not much of an afternoon, but all in all a good day."

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer

"We had dry conditions in FP1, almost throughout, just a spot here and there and some rain towards the end. We got in some good running with the time available. The pace on the soft tyre is looking reasonably encouraging. Unfortunately for both of our cars, their supersoft runs were interrupted by the red flag of Sainz, so we didn’t get the best out of those. We got some good data from various experiments we were doing as well, so overall it was a good session. FP2 was almost a complete washout, although we managed to get a lap or two with each car on the full wet tyre, again conducting some relevant experiments and getting some useful data. I feel sorry for the fans, who are incredibly enthusiastic, that they didn’t get any spectacle this afternoon, but hopefully the rest of the weekend will be dry."

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso had a very bad day. Sainz had already earned 20 grid place penalties for a sixth MGU-H (10), and a fifth ICE and turbocharger (five apiece), when he crashed very heavily exiting the hairpin in FP1. He was unharmed, but his STR12 was a mess.

Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:32.501, P18

“Not the most exciting day in terms of running, I must admit… Having said that, it was still good to be back here in Suzuka and be able to drive during this morning’s FP1. We didn’t do many laps in total – we didn’t even drive out of the garage in this afternoon’s FP2 because of the weather conditions! – but we got some good data and we now have some work for tomorrow in order to improve our performance. Another positive is that the seat now feels much better than in Malaysia, I’m happy about this and now we just need to find a bit more pace. We have one more practice session left to get ready for qualifying and I think it will be a pretty busy one! I’m now really looking forward to tomorrow.”

Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:32.252, P17

“A tricky Friday for us! Obviously, the accident in FP1 was a bit of a pity… I didn’t expect that to happen, I just clipped the outside kerb a bit too much and it sent me into a spin and then into the barriers. It looked quite incredible on the TV, but luckily it wasn’t such a big one from inside the cockpit. We can’t forget that a minimal miscalculation here can make you pay a big price! I’m happy that the mechanics could put the car back together for FP2 – they did an amazing job like they always do, pushing for me and the team. We were ready to run in FP2, but unfortunately the weather conditions didn’t help us and we were only able to complete an installation lap. Hopefully tomorrow is a better day!”

Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer

“We came here with some new set-up ideas to try on the car, looking to maximize the potential from the aero package we introduced at the last event. We managed to get some good testing across the two cars in this morning’s FP1, both aero and mechanical, which was very positive. Unfortunately, Carlos made a small mistake and crashed, but the mechanics did a fantastic job in turning the car around and getting it out in the afternoon for an installation lap. We gathered good data in the morning that we’d planned to develop further into FP2 but, unfortunately, with the weather conditions, we didn’t get to trial those. We’ll now have to spend a bit of time tonight trying to understand exactly what we’re confident to take into FP3, because we don’t want to spend the whole of that session learning about the car – that’s for qualifying performance for Pierre. As for Carlos’ car, the situation is slightly different because of his engine penalty, so we’ll have a different focus for tomorrow, more based around race performance.”

Haas

Haas had a decent time in FP1, with one car in the top 10 and one just outside, which was encouraging. Magnussen’s day was troubled by a water leak on his Ferrari engine, however, that restricted him to one hot lap at a time.

Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:31.032, P9

“FP1 was a solid session in between the drops of rain. We managed to do everything we wanted, more or less. It would’ve been nice to get a few more laps on the long run on high fuel before the rain came, but we saw how fast the car is anyway. The car’s doing OK for now, so we need to keep on that trend. We need to keep improving and making sure we don’t lose our way. The weather can determine a lot. We’ll see what happens between FP2 and FP3. I think we have some ideas what to do to get the car better.”

Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:31.216, P11

“The car was feeling good straight away, so we were happy about that. I think we need to try and find some more speed, for sure, because other people are going to be doing that. If we’re aiming to score points this weekend we need to get it right. I had the issues with the water leak and I could only do one lap per run. So, I didn’t get that much running, but hopefully we can catch up.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

“We had a pretty good FP1, though it’s still too early to say how good. We had just a small problem with Kevin’s car. We couldn’t do more than a few laps because of a small water leak, which we sorted out for FP2. Unfortunately, it rained a lot in FP2, so we didn’t do any more running. We’re now looking forward to tomorrow.”

Sauber

Both drivers were happy with their balance in FP1, when they also had the chance to test a new front wing.

Marcus Ericsson - FP1: 1:33.397, P20

“FP1 was ok – with stable track conditions, we were able to test different car set-ups and obtain some data there. It rained all through FP2, so we were unable to run our programme – that was a shame, and did not just affect us but everyone in the paddock. We are going to pick up where we left off in FP1 during the third free practice tomorrow, and work on making some improvements for the rest of the weekend.”

Pascal Wehrlein - FP1: 1:32.897, P19

“FP1 went quite smoothly for me. I felt comfortable in the car and was satisfied with the car balance. It is unfortunate that we could not have more time on track due to the rain in FP2. I am looking forward to more track action tomorrow. Let’s see what the day will bring.”

Pirelli

Mario Isola, Head of Car Racing

“Lap times in FP1 were much faster than we’ve seen in the past once more, both because of the new regulations with wider tyres, and a softer tyre nomination for Japan than we have had in the past. As Suzuka is quite intensively used during the year, there was already some rubber on the track that enabled the cars to be quick straight away this morning, and the supersoft to work very well right out of the box. With the red flag in FP1 and the rain in FP2 – which meant that no cars took to the track for the first 45 minutes of the session – the amount of running was of course severely limited, but already the potential when it comes to race pace is clear to see.”