Japanese GP 2016

OCTOBER 7, 2016

Practice 1 Report - Crazy buzz

Nico Rosberg, Japanese GP 2016
© Active Pictures


By Dan Knutson in Suzuka

The drivers get a buzz from the crazy passionate fans in Japan and from the challenging Suzuka circuit. There were quite a few fans on hand already on Friday morning to watch Free Practice 1 which ended with Nico Rosberg being the fastest driver in the session.

The ambient temperature at the start of the 90-minute session was 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Centigrade) and the track temperature was 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Centigrade.) The humidity was 48 percent.

The line-up for the weekend was: Mercedes - Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Ferrari - Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. Williams Mercedes - Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas. Red Bull TAG Heuer - Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. Force India Mercedes - Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Renault - Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Toro Rosso Ferrari - Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz. Sauber Ferrari - Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr. McLaren Honda - Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button. Manor Mercedes - Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon. Haas Ferrari - Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez.

Grosjean and Vettel were the first out. The drivers adore the 3.608-mile (5.807-km) 18-turn track and the entire Japanese experience.

"I really like to come here," said Vettel who has won at Suzuka four times. "I think it's really one of the highlights. I love this track. It's my favorite track in the world, and the fact there are so many fans that are crazy about us, the team and giving us so much support is really nice. Really, really special and unique in many ways, so it's a weekend that generally I enjoy a lot."

Three-time winner Hamilton concurred.

"I love the Suzuka circuit and I've been quick there for the past two years," he said, "so hopefully that trend will continue. I know I'll have some fantastic support in the grandstands to lift me up and give me that extra boost. The energy from the fans in Malaysia was the best I've ever seen there and in Japan they just seem to find another level every year. It's insane how crazy they go for the sport and I get a real buzz out of that. Fingers crossed I can make it happen to pay them back for all the love and strength they send my way."

Slick tire choices from Pirelli for the weekend were: hard (orange sidewalls), medium (white sidewalls) and soft (yellow sidewalls).

Perez set the first time of the session - a 1:34.956.

Not much happened until 22 minutes into FP1 when Alonso spun and backed into the barriers at Turn 14. He got going again and returned to the pits for repairs.

A short while later Raikkonen topped the times with a 1:34.746. Perez meanwhile was in the pits have the halo fitted to his Force India.

The session was 27 minutes old when Ricciardo, Vettel, Hamilton and Rosberg finally got around to doing flying laps. Rosberg did his in 1:33.751 while Hamilton posted a 1:33.967. Both were on the soft compound slicks. Vettel, also on the softs, slotted into third with a 1:34.334.

At the 40-minute break, the top 10 were: Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Perez, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Alonso and Button.

All was then quiet on the Suzuka front for the next eight minutes until Magnussen headed out. He was currently 19th in the standings, but moved up to 15th despite being on the hard Pirellis.

Fifty-seven minutes into the session, Verstappen used the medium compound tires to record a 1:34.334, which pit him fifth.

Next, Vettel had the softs on his Ferrari when he topped the times with a 1:33.525. Rosberg had the softs on his Mercedes when he topped that with a 1:32.431.

Twenty-five minutes remained in the session when Hamilton, on the softs, went into second place with a 1:32.646, and Grojean, complaining about his brakes, went off the track at Turn 9 and continued.

The top 10 was now: Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Perez, Alonso and Bottas.

With the drivers now doing long runs on used tires - it was very busy on the track in the closing stages of FP1 - the pecking order at the top was not destined to change.