2014 Japanese Grand Prix: Friday Analysis

Slipping and Sliding at Suzuka

Typhoon Phanfone may be on everyone’s minds at the moment, but drivers were already slipping and sliding around the challenging Suzuka circuit even before a raindrop has fallen. The heavy rains from yesterday had resulted in a green track at the start of FP1 and it certainly took time to yield grip. However, the limit was found in the second session of the day and soon exceeded by some, with Kamui Kobayashi, Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Gutierrez all finding the barriers. Equally, it may not have been a perfect day for the championship leader, but Lewis Hamilton ended the final session of the day on top of the timesheet, as Mercedes seem to have a comfortable margin. 

Baby Steps

With the circuit in poor condition, the early stage of FP1 was a tentative expedition for all the drivers, let alone young Max Verstappen, taking his first steps at Formula One race weekend. Despite the concerns regarding his age and experience, he acquitted himself very well this morning, positing some highly respectable times, albeit fuel loads in comparison to future teammate Daniil Kvyat remain undisclosed. While Max may have steered clear of dangerous kerbs and artificial grass, who could blame him, particularly when must more experienced names found the ever present Suzuka barriers later in the day.
“I was not even close to the limit,” Verstappen said to a scrum of journalists following the session. “I was just driving safely without doing any crazy stuff, so for me the main thing today was just to try and make a lot of laps.” 
Ultimately, Toro Rosso’s day in general was far from as smooth as Verstappen’s first few laps. At the end of FP1, the rookie-to-be’s day ended slightly prematurely when an internal combustion engine issue halted his progress. Then, as Verstappen handed the car to Jean-Eric Vergne, the Frenchman suffered two similar failures in the second session, derailing his progress. However, I doubt he will be overly concerned regarding today’s lack of running, considering the fact that today’s performance runs could be largely academic if Phanfone makes its mark on Sunday.

The Challenge of Suzuka

It is one of the aspects which make the circuit such a fan favourite – Suzuka is hugely demanding on driver skill and as usual on a Friday in Japan, a number of names found themselves in the barriers.
As FP2 got under-way and Kamui Kobayashi jumped into the Caterham for the first time this weekend, his time in front of the adoring fans was cut short as he lost control on entry into Turn Three, in what was a bizare spin. What seemed to be a fundamental balance issue pitched the Caterham round and straight to the scene of the accident.
Then, soon after the efficient marshals had cleared the incident, Daniel Ricciardo suffered a nasty snap of oversteer as he prepared for a hot-lap and on the exit of the final corner, he found the unforgiving barriers. Fortunately, the Aussie did not suffer the same ferocity of impact that the likes of Timo Glock have experienced at the very same corner. However, the accident still ended the Aussie’s session. Then it was Esteban Gutierrez, (who incidentally was wearing glasses behind his visor for the very first time,) who crashed on entry to Spoon Curve.

FP1 Timesheet
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.461
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.151
3 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +0.576
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1.115
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.726
6 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1.866
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +2.005
8 Jenson Button McLaren +2.188
9 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +2.225
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +2.253
11 Felipe Massa Williams +2.551
12 Max Verstappen Toro Rosso +2.696
13 Sergio Perez Force India +2.863
14 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +3.121
15 Romain Grosjean Lotus +3.390
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber +3.585
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +3.636
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +3.857
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham +4.570
20 Roberto Merhi Caterham +6.011
21 Jules Bianchi Marussia +6.119
22 Max Chilton Marussia +6.296

FP2 Timesheet
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.078
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +0.240
3 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1.201
4 Jenson Button McLaren +1.331
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +1.358
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +1.451
7 Fernando Alonso Ferrari +1.559
8 Kevin Magnussen McLaren +1.636
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1.865
10 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +2.108
11 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso +2.141
12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +2.426
13 Romain Grosjean Lotus +2.485
14 Felipe Massa Williams +2.622
15 Sergio Perez Force India +2.708
16 Pastor Maldonado Lotus +2.720
17 Adrian Sutil Sauber +2.932
18 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber +3.287
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham +3.991
20 Jules Bianchi Marussia +4.228
21 Max Chilton Marussia +4.255

22 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham +7.682

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