Bottas sets the pace in Japanese FP as storm clouds gather

Bottas sets the pace in Japanese FP as storm clouds gather

After setting the pace in the first free practice session at Suzuka, Valtteri Bottas continued at the top of the timesheet in FP2, beating team-mate Lewis Hamilton by a tenth of a second, with Max Verstappen third for Red Bull Racing, just under two tenths further back.

Bottas’s best time came at the second attempt, with the Finn posting a lap of 1:27.785 after his first run was compromised by a spin at the end of his warm-up lap. Bottas lost control of his car out of the final chicane but survived the incident to eventually edge ahead of team-mate Hamilton. 

The championship leader’s first run was compromised by Bottas’ spin and when Hamilton got as clean lap his best time came in at 1:27.885, set on his second run. 

Max Verstappen gave Red Bull Racing power unit supplier Honda hope of a good result at its home race by getting closest to the dominant Mercedes drivers with the Dutch driver setting a qualifying simulation lap of 1:28.066 to finish 0.281s off the pace. That time put him seven hundredths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. 

Both Leclerc and team-mate Sebastian Vettel made late improvements in the session with the Monegasque driver jumping from the P6 his first quali run had yielded to fourth place behind Verstappen. Vettel, meanwhile, finished two tenths further back after his second run netted a best time of 1:28.376, some six tenths of a second off Bottas’ pace. 

Alex Albon steered the second Red Bull Racing RB15 to sixth place ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who was almost three tenths quicker than Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez.

Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly also made a late jump up the order. Until the final minutes the French driver languished outside the top 10, more than two seconds off the pace. A late run improved things, however, and a time of 1:29.354 vaulted him to ninth place, 1.5s off the pace and just fourth thousandths of a second ahead of 10th-placed Lando Norris of McLaren.

The chequered flag brought the curtain on track action at Suzuka until Sunday morning. Earlier in the day the impending arrival of Typhoon Hagibis led circuit owners Mobilityland and ASN the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) to cancel Saturday’s programme. 

Qualifying will now be held at 10am local time on Sunday and in the event that the weather leads to the cancellation of qualifying the grid will be formed on the basis of the FP2 classification. 

2019 FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 2
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 33 1:27.785 
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 34 1:27.885 0.100
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 24 1:28.066 0.281
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 28 1:28.141 0.356
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 37 1:28.376 0.591
6 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing 34 1:28.402 0.617
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren 29 1:29.051 1.266
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point 28 1:29.299 1.514
9 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 34 1:29.354 1.569
10 Lando Norris McLaren 35 1:29.358 1.573
11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 29 1:29.477 1.692
12 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 35 1:29.512 1.727
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 28 1:29.553 1.768
14 Lance Stroll Racing Point 27 1:29.597 1.812
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 33 1:29.651 1.866
16 Kevin Magnussen Haas 31 1:29.749 1.964
17 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 30 1:29.859 2.074
18 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 29 1:30.334 2.549
19 Robert Kubica Williams 35 1:30.916 3.131
20 George Russell Williams 36 1:31.071 3.286

Valtteri Bottas led the way for Mercedes as the championship-leading team took the top two positions in the opening practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Prior to the start of the session the FIA confirmed that due to the approach of Typhoon Hagibis all activities scheduled to take place at Suzuka tomorrow on Saturday, 12 October have been cancelled. Qualifying will now take place at 10am local time on Sunday morning, with the race scheduled for its normal 2.10pm start. 

The FIA later issued a further updating adding that in the event that inclement weather on Sunday morning makes Qualifying impossible the grid for the race will be established based on the Second Practice Session Classification, with any penalties applied as necessary.

Friday’s practice session therefore take on added importance and after the opening 90 minutes it was Bottas who emerged as the quickest man. The Finn edged team-mate Lewis Hamilton by just under eight hundredths of a second, with Sebastian Vettel in third place, though the Ferrari driver was almost a full second off the pace in third.

Hamilton set the early pace in the early stages setting a time of 1:30.832 on medium compound Pirelli tyres but by the halfway point of the session Bottas had moved to the top of the timesheet with a lap of 1:30.524.

Vettel then bolted on soft tyres to move to the front with a lap of 1:29.720 but that was quickly eclipsed by both Mercedes drivers, with Bottas setting his session-best during the latter half of the session.

Charles Leclerc was fourth-fastest in the other Ferrari, with the Monegasque driver finishing just under two tenths of a second off Vettel’s pace. Max Verstappen was fifth for Honda-powered Red Bull Racing at the start of the Japanese manufacturer’s home race weekend, with teammate Alex Albon three tenths slower in sixth.

Seventh place when to McLaren’s Carlos Sainz who set a best time of 1:30.702, almost two seconds off Bottas’ pace. The Spaniard stopped at the side of the track at the start of the session with a minor technical issue but he was quickly recovered to the pits and was soon on his way again. 

Sergio Pérez took eighth place for Racing Point 0.149s ahead of team-mate 

Lance Stroll. The final top-10 spot was taken by Lando Norris in the second McLaren. 

Further back reigning Super Formula and SUPER GT champion Naoki Yamamoto took over Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso for the session, and the Honda- backed driver finished in 17thplace, just under a tenth of a second behind regular race driver Daniil Kvyat. 


2019 FIA Formula One Japanese Grand Prix – Free Practice 1
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 26 1:28.731 
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 25 1:28.807 0.076
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 26 1:29.720 0.989
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 20 1:29.912 1.181
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 22 1:30.046 1.315
6 Alex Albon Red Bull Racing24 1:30.375 1.644
7 Carlos Sainz McLaren 21 1:30.702 1.971
8 Sergio Perez Racing Point 21 1:30.810 2.079
9 Lance Stroll Racing Point 27 1:30.959 2.228
10 Lando Norris McLaren 24 1:31.001 2.270
11 Romain Grosjean Haas 25 1:31.283 2.552
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 27 1:31.307 2.576
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 29 1:31.426 2.695
14 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 25 1:31.563 2.832
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 22 1:31.785 3.054
16 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso 23 1:31.920 3.189
17 Naoki Yamamoto Scuderia Toro Rosso 30 1:32.018 3.287
18 George Russell Williams 23 1:32.80 4.069
19 Robert Kubica Williams 27 1:33.484 4.753
20 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 4 1:36.887 8.156

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