Japanese GP | Rosberg edges Hamilton to set the pace in FP2

Nico Rosberg goes quickest in FP2 at the Japanese Grand Prix.

Narrow margins split the Silver Arrows, as Rosberg comes out fighting in FP2. Retaining the deficit from the opening session, leaving Hamilton to cross the line marginally down to his team-mate at the Japanese GP.

When the weekend began in Suzuka, it was Sebastian Vettel momentarily leading the way before finding his time smashed by his countryman. With Rosberg’s new benchmark over a second faster than the Ferrari’s – allowing Hamilton to only claim second, two-tenths down.

Come FP2, after Grosjean once again broke the silence, it was Vettel setting the early pace once more. Only for Rosberg to better the Ferrari for the top spot once more.

Vettel had opened the 90-minute session by going top with a 1:34.150 on the hard compound tyres. With the German also going side-by-side with Fernando Alonso prior to his flying lap as the German sought after track position.

Fernando Alonso came into FP2 following a crash at Spoon during the opening session. The Spaniard had spun going into the left-hander, making contact between the rear of his car and the barrier which only appeared to damage his rear-wing. Further investigations between the two sessions, however, revealed a crack in his exhaust that needed to be replaced.

First out of the blocks in both sessions, Romain Grosjean, also came into the second practice session after locking up in and finding the barrier at Degner 2 during the opening 90-minutes.

Romain was able to reverse away from the barrier at turn nine in order to return to the pits. As was Kevin Magnussen during the early stages of FP2, as the Dane missed his braking point at the following hairpin to edge into the gravel.

After Kevin found the gravel at the hairpin, Rosberg was creeping out of the garage with a lot of smoke flowing from his exhaust. It is a usual thing for the Mercedes cars to puff smoke as the seals do not tighten under low revs. But, unlike the usual situation, the car continued to smoke when Rosberg parked to the side of the pit exit for a practice start. However, the situation cleared itself once Nico was on track and lapping at normal speed.

Following his smoking car, Rosberg then set the pace as he posted a new overall benchmark with a 1:33.758 on medium tyres. This time, however, was beatable for Hamilton, as he went top by a quarter of a second while on hard tyres.

A switch onto softs soon after left Hamilton running in second place, seven-hundredths of a second down on Rosberg. Lewis’ time included personal bests in the middle and last sector to build on a purple first, but failed to be enough at the line.

Vettel’s best time on soft tyres was only enough for fifth place, behind Verstappen. With Sebastian’s 1:33.103 eight-tenths of a second down on Rosberg. Raikkonen, in the other Ferrari, ended the session just three-tenths of a second down on P1.

While Vettel found a second between compounds, Sergio Perez found more as he moved himself into the then top three. Perez, however, felt he could have done better as he believed a Williams “didn’t make much of an effort” to let him through.

Ricciardo, meanwhile, had his flying lap interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car. With the Red Bull running around half  a second down on the benchmark prior to the stoppage.

The Virtual Safety Car came out in FP2 after Gutierrez parked aside the track on the run into Degner 1. The Haas came to a stop after experiencing a turbo issue.

Earlier in the session, yellow flags were needed at the final corner as Daniil Kvyat spun the Toro Rosso. A year ago, in qualifying for the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, Daniil suffered a high speed and heavy crash as he rolled the Red Bull into the hairpin.

Last year’s crash came as he edged out on the grass at turn 10, after the crossover. While today’s spin came as he ran wide at the final corner, dipping a wheel on the grass before spinning back across the track. Stopping before crashing into the pit wall.

In terms of race pace, Mercedes were closely matched by Red Bull. With Ferrari running slightly further back.

Pos Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 35 1:33.250
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 35 1:32.322 0.072
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 26 1:32.573 0.323
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 29 1:33.061 0.811
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 34 1:33.103 0.853
6 Sergio Perez Force India 37 1:33.570 1.32
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India 35 1:33.873 1.623
8 Fernado Alonso McLaren 37 1:33.985 1.735
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams 33 1:34.028 1.778
10 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso 33 1:34.086 1.836
11 Felipe Massa Williams 33 1:34.127 1.877
12 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 29 1:34.150 1.9
13 Romain Grosjean Haas 33 1:34.241 1.991
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 27 1:34.305 2.055
15 Kevin Magnussen Renault 36 1:34.339 2.085
16 Jenson Button McLaren 29 1:34.398 2.148
17 Esteban Gutierrez Haas 11 1:34.643 2.393
18 Jolyon Palmer Renault 40 1:34.760 2.51
19 Felipe Nasr Sauber 26 1:34.824 2.574
20 Pascal Wehrlein Manor 30 1:35.292 3.042
21 Esteban Ocon Manor 37 1:35.400 3.15
22 Marcus Ericsson Sauber 26 1:36.318 4.068