JAPANESE GP: FREE PRACTICE

An update from free practice at the Japanese Grand Prix as Max and Alex get their weekend started in Suzuka.

The Suzuka Circuit is one of those tracks that drivers love attacking – but perhaps more so when it counts in Qualifying and the Race. The looping, dropping, rising figure-8 track is very narrow, and with the current generation of cars it’s become a difficult place of which to launch an overtaking move. This has, however, not diminished the passion shown in the grandstands. Suzuka is one of the best-attended grands prix in F1, with certainly the most enthusiastic spectators. It’s a great place to go to work.

With the news breaking before Free Practice One that Saturday's track action had been cancelled due to Typhoon Hagabis. And Qualifying now taking place on Sunday at 10:00 local time, with the race still going ahead at 14:10, Sunday as planned. It meant teams now only had today to get their car setup cracked over FP1 and FP2.

Our first track action of the weekend saw a productive session for the Team with Max finishing the session in P5, setting a time of 1:30.046 from his 22 laps. Alex wasn't far behind in P6 with a best time of 1:30.375, he put in a total of 24 laps

Free Practice Two in Suzuka saw most teams push a little harder than they usually would on a Friday, with the outside chance times from this session could be used to determine the grid should weather force a complete cancellation of qualifying.

Max completed a total of 24 laps with a best time of 1:28.066 putting him P3. Meanwhile Alex got through 34 laps with a best time of 1:28.402 putting him P6 at the end of his very first day behind the wheel in Suzuka.

MAX VERSTAPPEN
First Practice Session: 1:30.046, Position: 5, Laps: 22
Second Practice Session: 1:28.066, Position: 3, Laps: 24

“I wasn’t totally happy with the balance initially today but we improved a lot from FP1 to FP2 which you can see from the lap times this afternoon. There are still improvements to be made and Mercedes are looking very strong, which is no surprise on this track, but we made a good recovery from this morning. The new Esso fuel also seems to be a good step forward in terms of power which is really positive. It’s only Friday so you can’t really tell where everyone is but we were all pushing a little harder in FP2 in case qualifying doesn’t happen on Sunday and these times set our grid positions. Because of the typhoon we won’t be on track tomorrow but we have a full day to look at the data and I will probably set up a FIFA tournament with some of the other drivers. I’m not worried about doing qualifying and the race on Sunday as it won’t affect my approach. We can’t change the weather and it’s out of our control, so now we just have to see what happens on Sunday.”

ALEX ALBON
First Practice Session: 1:30.375, Position: 6, Laps: 24
Second Practice Session: 1:28.402, Position: 6, Laps: 34

“I’m quite happy with how today went and I’m loving the track so I can’t wait to get back out there. Sector one is really impressive and I’m enjoying myself. I got into a rhythm quite quickly and I’m feeling a lot more comfortable than I was in Sochi, but I still have some work to do. It’s my first time driving here and not running tomorrow means less time for me to learn the track which isn’t ideal. It will hurt us a bit but it’s the same for everyone and we’ll get on with it. Mercedes are very quick and they look good in the corners but our car is getting a lot better and I don’t think the balance is too far away. We’re making good progress and there’s still a bit more to come, so now it’s just about fine tuning things to find a couple more tenths. Let’s see if qualifying goes ahead on Sunday as P6 is maybe not quite what we wanted. If it’s dry I hope to be in the mix of things but this track looks tricky in the wet so if it rains it will be a bit more difficult. At the moment I’ve got nothing planned for tomorrow but I’ve heard there’s a bowling alley in our hotel so maybe we’ll do that!”