Japanese Grand Prix: Kvyat tops FP2 as the rain returned to Suzuka

Second free practice at the Japanese Grand Prix topped by Daniil Kvyat. 

As the rain briefly stopped and left Suzuka to dry, Daniil Kvyat topped the second time sheet of the day with a slender gap back to Rosberg, with Hamilton in third. But after the intermediate tyres had their running, the rain regained control of Suzuka to force the full wet tyres back on.

When the action got underway for the second practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix, track conditions remained damp after the morning rain but conditions had improved greatly at first to reduce the spray flicking up from the rears of the cars. The track and ambient temperatures also improved but the chance of rain remained at 60%.

Back in FP1 when the track was at it’s best, Sainz was lucky enough to be on the intermediate tyres and was able to post the best lap time of the 90 minute session. But with the track drying up, the start of FP2 saw his best time only good enough to sit in the midfield, more than two seconds off the pace setting Nico Rosberg.

Worse for Carlos however was his engine, the Renault power unit boosting his Toro Rosso around the Suzuka International Racing Circuit developed some “strange noises” that left the Spaniard uncomfortable and heading for the pits.

But while he was heading for the pits, Maldonado, Vettel and Raikkonen were having trips off the track. For Pastor, he was tip-toeing around the first corner and despite going slowly, found himself running off the track on the exit of T2 and taking a trip across the grass. As for Vettel, he was attacking the first corner hard, too hard in fact, as he overshot the braking zone and darted onto the run off, millimetres from the gravel.

Back in the Renault powered teams, Kvyat improved on his earlier time to beat Rosberg’s benchmark time by two hundredths of a second to top the time sheet with Ricciardo creeping in fourth. Both Ferrari drivers were sitting behind Ricciardo’s time at the mid-session mark, but the best Ferrari time set by Vettel was thousandths of a second away from being two full seconds off of Kvyat.

Elsewhere in the Renault powered pack of four, Sainz remained in his garage while Verstappen set about attacking Suzuka more and more. Yet the car was not fully there this time around and he kept struggling for grip. On one occasion, Max found himself drifting the car away from the apex, before locking up at the hairpin a few laps later for a short trip across the gravel.

As the second half kicked off, the rain started to come back down and with that, the full wet tyres were making a reappearance. Unfortunately, with that most took the rain as the chequered flag and held back in the garages to prevent any repair works being ordered.

For a little bit at least, Marcus Ericsson was out on track with the full wet tyres on a Suzuka circuit back to its FP2 worse. And with that, his lap time came four seconds slower than his session best. One part of the lap that would have cost him time was on the exit of turn two when he strolled out to the left and placed his left hand-side wheels on the kerb, causing him to lose traction and the rear to kick out.

Fernando Alonso was set to run in the time the rain fell again on the intermediate tyres after the team worked on his Honda power unit. But as he prepped to go, the full wets were being changed onto his car as once again, the rain become worse.

After a few installation laps by Alonso to check the engine was working to the teams satisfaction, the Spaniard returned to the garage. Yet with Fernando on the time sheet, it left just one man missing from the leaderboard as Bottas continued to sit out the session.

Valtteri was not sitting out FP2 due to an issue with his car or the conditions not being worth running in, but rather to keep the tyres for the rest of the weekend should it rain on Sunday along with the expected Saturday Suzuka rain.

For the dedicated Japanese fans who continued to sit and stand in the rain to watch the Formula One cars lap Suzuka, the championship leaders of Hamilton, Rosberg and Vettel took to the track for a few late laps on the full wet tyres. But as the Mercedes hit the pits, Vettel found himself aquaplaning off the track.

Jenson Button was also out on track and finding himself aquaplaning, even on the straights, but as the team asked if it was safe to set a lap he replied by saying it “would be pottering around”. Yet the team felt a full lap would be good, especially in yellow G3 mode, as it would help the team with fuel flow and know how much would be needed come the race in similar conditions.

Regardless, Jenson was soon strolling back down the pitlane and into his garage as Fernando retook to the track. Like Alonso, some drivers dawdled out and back into the pits as the session came to a close but with full wet tyres and the heavier rain, no driver could improve on their times.

And with that, Daniil Kvyat took the top spot at the flag for FP2 ahead of Rosberg slightly.

Position Driver Gap
1 Kvyat 1:48.277
2 Rosberg 0.023
3 Hamilton 0.576
4 Ricciardo 0.820
5 Vettel 1.991
6 Raikkonen 2.042
7 Sainz 2.141
8 Verstappen 2.265
9 Nasr 2.691
10 Maldonado 3.280
11 Hulkenberg 3.397
12 Button 3.584
13 Ericsson 3.657
14 Perez 3.793
15 Grosjean 4.257
16 Massa 4.488
17 Alonso 6.962
18 Stevens 9.782
19 Rossi 11/142
20 Bottas No time set