Japanese GP: Free Practice

An update from free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix as the Bulls get up and running at the Suzuka International Circuit.

Some races just have a feel good factor; Suzuka is top of that list. It doesn’t really matter who you talk to, it’s virtually impossible to find anyone working in Formula One who doesn’t look forward to the Japanese Grand Prix. The drivers all like the circuit; the crews enjoy working in front of the crowd who cheer every practice pitstop; it’s good for photographers, and TV gets great action shots. It is, pretty much, the perfect circuit.

And the Bulls took to it for a production Free Practice One session. Daniel took P3 with a 1:29.273 from 32 laps with Max in P6 with a 1:29.841 from his 30 laps. Topping the timesheets was Lewis Hamilton with a 1:28.691. 

Turning attention to Free Practice Two, Max took P4 with a 1:29.257 whilst also completing 32 further laps of setup work on his RB14. Meanwhile, Daniel took P6 with a 1:29.513, adding another 27 laps to his count for the day. Topping the timesheets was Lewis Hamilton with a 1:28.217.

Mixed conditions greeted the drivers for Free Practice Three as the Bulls continued to look for the right balance with the RB14. P4 and a 1:30.304 was the reward for Max's 13 laps while Daniel took P6 with a 1:30.474 from his 10 laps in a rain interupted session. Topping the timesheets was Lewis Hamilton with a 1:29.599. 

Summarising Friday's sessions, Max said:

“We have some work to do ahead of tomorrow as I wasn’t totally satisfied with the feeling in the car today. Both short and long runs didn’t feel ideal, it may look closer on paper but I know we can improve. I was running a different rear wing to Daniel which meant less downforce. If we can find a compromise between straight line speed and rear grip then it will put us in a stronger position for the rest of the weekend. Here in Suzuka you need to be confident in the grip in order to attack the corners. It’s only Friday so we have time to make the changes and find a good balance ahead of qualifying. I think we can get close to Ferrari and challenge during the race but Mercedes seem too far ahead at the moment.”

Daniel added:

“It was a pretty solid day and there are some promising signs. On the low fuel runs we can be better but I don’t think we’re looking too bad. My sector one was slow as I had traffic on my fast lap and we can be better there for sure. On the straight we still lose a bit to the front runners, even if we ran the same downforce, they have a bit more power so coming up to Turn 1 we already lose a bit. We gain a little bit back in the corners but I think tomorrow if it’s dry you will see a better sector one from us. The long runs seemed more consistent and I was happier with that. Qualifying here is important as it’s not easy to overtake and there could be rain tomorrow, although they said it would rain today and it didn’t, so I don’t really know what to expect. Max ran a smaller rear wing to me today and we had different downforce levels, on one lap there may not be that much difference but I seemed happier with the car on the long runs. Everything ran well and it’s been fun. It’s a really good circuit and with these fast cars, as you can see from my smile, it’s very enjoyable.”