Japanese GP - Friday - Practice Session 2 Report
Webber tops Suzuka second session
Mark Webber's Red Bull (1:32.493) set the headline time in the second session of free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix but with the session more about long run pace and tyre evaluation, the evidence is that a close battle is in prospect.
Both Ferrari and Red Bull showed some evidence of tyre blistering at a track which, along with Barcelona, gives the highest energy loadings of the year.
Varying fuel loads always make meaningful evaluation of the Friday times difficult, with some teams opting to simulate a first stint fuel load and others, a second stint load, with a 10kgs difference in fuel load adding up to a lap time difference of almost 0.4s at Suzuka.
Closest ultimate soft tyre (option) time to Webber came from Lewis Hamilton's McLaren (1:32.707), ahead of Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull (1:32.836).
Nico Hulkenberg (1:32.987) put in a very strong lap to record fourth quickest time overall, as the Force Indias suffered wildly different fortunes. Paul Di Resta brought out the red flag just seven minutes into the session when he dropped a wheel off the circuit at Spoon Curve, just moments after Heikki Kovalainen almost did the same thing but rescued his Caterham.
"I was probably a bit too ambitious," Di Resta said. I found myself with two right hand wheels on the grass and lost grip on the loose dirt. It's a shame it had to happen so early in the session and it creates extra work for the guys tonight. You have to be on the edge to feel what the car is doing and these things happen, but hopefully it won't cost us too much for the rest of the weekend."
Then, towards the end of the session, in a copycat accident, the most experienced man on the circuit, seven times champion Michael Schumacher, also thumped into the tyres at Spoon.
Just before the chequered flag, Vitaly Petrov suffered a worrying failure when he lost his Caterham's rear wing on the straight. If it had to happen, better there than amid Suzuka's Esses...
Behind Hulkenberg, Fernando Alonso's Ferrari was fifth quickest (1:33.093), from Romain Grosjean's Lotus (1:33.107), Jenson Button's Mclaren (1:33.349), Bruno Senna's Williams (1:33.499), Felipe Massa's Ferrari (1:33.614) and Schumacher's Mercedes (1:33.750).