Japanese GP: Hamilton tops FP2 as Mercedes create distance to the field

As the race pace began to show at Suzuka, it was Lewis Hamilton on top of the time sheet. Hamilton topped the second free practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix ahead of his team-mate Nico Rosberg after a 1:35:078 was enough to edge out his championship rival by two tenths of a second.

In the opening free practice session, Rosberg set the pace as he pipped Hamilton to the top spot. This clearly did not give Nico a psychological edge over Lewis when it came to the second free practice session, but things remained close between the pair.

Kamui Kobayashi returned to the cockpit of his Caterham after sitting out FP1 for Roberto Merhi. Also joining Kobayashi back in their cockpits at Kamui’s home race was Jean-Eric Vergne, following the Frenchman sitting out for Max Verstappen to make his Formula One Grand Prix weekend debut.

However Kamui would go on to complete just seven minutes of on-track action. As the Japanese driver lapped the Suzuka circuit, Kamui lost control of the rear of his car as it suddenly stepped out on him as he turned in for turn 4. With no control of the rear, his Caterham span around and headed straight into the barrier.

It wasn’t long until another driver was stopping out on track to join Kamui on the sidelines. Jean-Eric Vergne, the other driver to miss the opening free practice session, was forced into parking his Toro Rosso on the side of the track at turn 7 following a technical issue.

Over the 15 minutes FP2 had been running for before Vergne was forced to park up, Ricciardo was leading the session to Kevin Magnussen. Unfortunately Ricciardo’s table topping time of 1:37:186 would be his last fastest lap of the session as after just another three minutes, another driver was out of FP2.

Ricciardo’s retirement came as the Australian prepared for his next lap. As he exited the chicane at a relatively low-speed he began to accelerate on approach to the final corner. However as he took the little kink of a final corner his Red Bull became slightly out of shape and with little run off at that part of the track, straight into the wall. The impact ripped the front left tyre from his car and eventually brought out the red flags in order to retrieve the car.

After several minutes under the red flag, the session re-started with Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel queuing at the end of the pit lane eager to get back on track with their plans with just under an hour remaining.

This break in proceedings allowed some drivers to switch onto the medium compound tyres. But it wasn’t long before the yellow flags were waving to warn drivers there was another car in the barrier.

Down at Spoon just four minutes after the re-start, Esteban Gutierrez was in the barrier and bringing an end to his session. Unlike Kobayashi and Ricciardo, Gutierrez’s crash did not come from a loss of control in his car instead Esteban went straight into the barrier at speed. A possible reason to explain his crash would be he simply missed his breaking point.

Meanwhile, following his car being retrieved under the red flag, Jean-Eric Vergne was back out on track in his Toro Rosso after his mechanics solved the issue that caused him to park up earlier in the session. Furthermore, Lewis Hamilton had moved to the top spot with Rosberg tucked in behind.

Vergne was almost replaced by Hamilton on the FP2 sidelines when the drivers championship leader suffered a huge moment out of Degner and under the cross-over point. As Hamilton applied the throttle to accelerate towards the hairpin, his rear stepped out and as he fought to regain control, the car snapped in the other direction. Luckily Lewis managed to hold on to his Silver Arrow with the wall looming nearby.

But with Hamilton able to stay out of the barrier, he went on to lower his personal best lap time and create a bit of distance between Rosberg and himself. Before Nico also improved to regain second place from Valtteri Bottas.

Entering the final thirty minutes of the session marked the end to the challenge at the top as long run simulations began to become the main task for drivers. In terms of long run pace, the Mercedes appeared strong and should be fine for another dominant race. But if the rain fall is extremely high, like expected, things shown in FP2’s long run sim is rather useless knowledge.

With the threat of Typhoon Phanfone creating an extremely wet race on Sunday, that’s if the race goes ahead at all on Sunday, a bit of rain began to be expected to hit the track as FP2 approached an end.

One of the plans being talked about on social media is for the race is to be moved to Saturday afternoon where qualifying currently is and move qualifying to the slot designated to the final free practice session. If a plan such as this is chosen by the FIA in order for the race to go ahead, a bit of wet running could provide teams and drivers with vital information for a wet qualifying.

But the end of the second free practice session was marked by another red flag. This time it was brought out when Jean-Eric Vergne was forced into parking his Toro Rosso for the second time in the session. As Vergne made his way through Spoon he changed a setting on his steering wheel and the dash display vanished along with all drive.

With just under four minutes ticking away on the clock when the red flag was waving, race control confirmed the session would not re-start and the session was over.

That meant Hamilton took the top spot and by doing so secured the 100th top spot in a Grand Prix weekend session for Mercedes in 2014. Rosberg stayed within touch of his team-mate before a one second gap to Bottas in third.

Raikkonen and Alonso were unable to impress in FP2 and found 6th place the best they could manage. Ahead of the Ferrari drivers came Button and Vettel as the Friday running in Japan came to an end.

Pos No Driver Team Time/Retired Gap Laps
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:35.078 28
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:35.318 0.240 27
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes 1:36.279 1.201 24
4 22 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.409 1.331 28
5 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.436 1.358 24
6 7 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:36.529 1.451 19
7 14 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.637 1.559 26
8 20 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes 1:36.714 1.636 31
9 26 Daniil Kvyat STR-Renault 1:36.943 1.865 27
10 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.186 2.108 3
11 25 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Renault 1:37.219 2.141 19
12 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1:37.504 2.426 16
13 8 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.563 2.485 31
14 19 Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes 1:37.700 2.622 18
15 11 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes 1:37.786 2.708 8
16 13 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault 1:37.798 2.720 27
17 99 Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.010 2.932 25
18 21 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.365 3.287 9
19 9 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault 1:39.069 3.991 22
20 17 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari 1:39.306 4.228 20
21 4 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari 1:39.333 4.255 24
22 10 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault 1:42.760 7.682 3

One thought on “Japanese GP: Hamilton tops FP2 as Mercedes create distance to the field

  1. Pingback: Japanese GP: Rosberg tops FP3 following Vettel’s departure from Red Bull | Kyle Archer

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