Japanese GP - Friday - Practice Session 1 Report

Anticipation

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel 

 © RV Press

 

By Dan Knutson in Suzuka

The lineup for the weekend was: Mercedes – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas; Red Bull TAG Heuer – Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen; Ferrari – Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen; Force India Mercedes – Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon; Williams Mercedes – Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll; McLaren Honda – Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne; Renault – Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer; Toro Rosso Renault – Pierre Gasly and Carlos Sainz; Haas Ferrari – Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen; Sauber Ferrari – Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.

The drivers were keenly anticipating getting out on the 3.608-mile (5.807-km) 18-turn Suzuka circuit, especially with the new cars with higher cornering speeds.

"Sector one is going to be really good," Grosjean said. "Everywhere is pretty good here but with these news cars and the high downforce it is going to be pretty awesome."

"I imagine Turns 3 will be full, 4, 5 will be just a little lift off the throttle," said Ricciardo. "Same with 6. All 7 will be full throttle, and then the first of that double right Degner will be just a little lift."

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 66 degrees Fahrenheit (19 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 73 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Centigrade).

There was an 80 percent chance of rain. And drivers soon began to report drops of rain. So, the priority became to maximize the dry running time on the track.

Pirelli's dry weather tire compounds for the weekend were medium, soft and super soft.

The Mercedes drivers set about racking up the laps, with Hamilton quickest overall with a 1:30.042 on the soft slicks.

Bottas was next on the scorecard followed by the Ferrari and Red Bull drivers.

Then, just before the half hour mark, Ricciardo popped to the top with a 1:29.541 on new super soft tires. The order was now Ricciardo, Hamilton, Bottas, Raikkonen, Vettel, Verstappen, Alonso, Ocon, Vandoorne and Hulkenberg.

Hamilton responded with a 1:29.377 on the super softs and Vettel a 1:29.419 on the softs.

The order of the top 10 continued to reshuffle and midway through FP1 it was now: Hamilton, Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Alonso, Grosjean and Palmer. All 20 drivers set their times of the soft tires.

Things were not going well for Malaysian Grand Prix winner Verstappen who radioed that the power was cutting off.

Things really were not going well for Sainz who had a big crash exiting the hairpin and brought out the red flags 51 minutes into the session.

"I don't know what happened, I lost the car," he radioed and then climbed out after reporting he was okay.

Suzuka is challenging and fun to drive, but it can also bite badly.

It took a while to get all the debris cleaned up, and 23 minutes remained when FP1 restarted.

The Ferrari drivers headed out for the first time on the super soft tires, and Vettel took the lead with a 1:29.166.

Verstappen said it was still drizzling at the back of the track. But it was not wet enough to change to rain tires.

Finally, the anticipated rain came with five minutes left in the session. The drivers headed for the pits.

The top 10 at the end of FP1 were: Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Bottas, Verstappen, Ocon, Hulkenberg, Grosjean and Vandoorne.


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