Japanese GP | Sebastian Vettel tops FP1 red flagged for Sainz

Sebastian Vettel tops first free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix.

The beauty of the 2017 aero regulations came out on top in opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix. Highlighting the planted nature the high downforce gives, only teasing what qualifying will show tomorrow through the swooping esses. With Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel topping the opening timesheet from title-rival Lewis Hamilton, as Carlos Sainz brings out the red flags for after crashing at the hairpin.

Sebastian’s fastest lap of the 90-minute session came as the final 15-minute neared. Returning to the track after the red flag period to pump in the new fastest first and middle sectors, while marginally losing out in sector three as he negotiated Marcus Ericcson’s Sauber.

Previously, Vettel had moved to within four-hundredths of Lewis Hamilton as the halfway mark approached. With the Briton leading the timesheet from Daniel Ricciardo as the Red Bull once again shows strong signs of competitiveness to add to its Malaysian momentum.

Yet, while Ricciardo rested inside the top three for most of the session. Max Verstappen slid down the order as he slid on track. Fighting his way to sixth place, over a second down on his team-mate.

The high downforce and supposedly strong McLaren chassis also allowed Alonso and Vandoorne to masterfully negotiate the opening sector of the famous Suzuka circuit. With Fernando’s fastest lap just half a second down from Vettel through the esses, but losing a further one and a half seconds across the remainder of the lap.

Shortly after Stoffel’s best lap of the day, coming despite a moment through spoon, the red flags were out with Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso blocking the path out of the Turn 11 hairpin.

Carlos had marginally locked his left front tyre going into the hairpin, with drivers braking as they turn in for the corner affecting the load on the Pirelli’s.

The lock-up, though, did not affect the crash as Sainz still made the corner. But on exit, ran over the kerb and lost traction on the astroturf. Pitching the car into the barrier, and seeing the front left tyre he just locked fall under the chassis.

The suspension tethers ensured the wheel remained connected to the car. But as the Toro Rosso came to a halt, the wheel tucking under caused the car to pop into a slight airborne moment.

“[Censored by FOM] I don’t know what happened. I lost the car, sorry,” swiftly reported the Spainard.
“No worries. Are you OK?”
Sainz: “Yep I’m OK.”

Carlos had earlier taken to the track as one of many with large aero rakes fitted to the cars. Carrying out constant speed runs as the team monitored the airflow around the only figure of eight-track used in Formula One.

Other drivers carrying out major data gathering laps in the early stages of FP1 included both Williams drivers. Whom exited the pits with flo-vis paint spread across the team’s high downforce rear wing.

While Sainz was the only driver to crash inside the first 90-minutes in Japan, Valtteri Bottas drifted wide on the pit straight as he adjusted settings on his steering wheel. Edging onto the grass as the track edge flicks right.

At first, most teams and drivers took to the track to utilise the full dry running as rain was anticipated to fall during and after the session. Leaving FP2 & potentially three wet with sprinkles falling during the opening session.

Pos. # Driver Team Engine Laps Time Gap
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 23 1’29.166
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 29 1’29.377 0.211
3 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull TAG 27 1’29.541 0.375
4 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Ferrari 22 1’29.638 0.472
5 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 30 1’30.151 0.985
6 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull TAG 26 1’30.762 1.596
7 31 Esteban Ocon Force India Mercedes 22 1’30.899 1.733
8 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 24 1’30.974 1.808
9 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 22 1’31.032 1.866
10 2 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren Honda 24 1’31.202 2.036
11 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 15 1’31.216 2.05
12 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren Honda 19 1’31.235 2.069
13 11 Sergio Perez Force India Mercedes 23 1’31.530 2.364
14 18 Lance Stroll Williams Mercedes 22 1’31.602 2.436
15 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault Renault 22 1’31.757 2.591
16 19 Felipe Massa Williams Mercedes 20 1’31.912 2.746
17 55 Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso Renault 14 1’32.252 3.086
18 10 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso Renault 18 1’32.501 3.335
19 94 Pascal Wehrlein Sauber Ferrari 29 1’32.897 3.731
20 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber Ferrari 28 1’33.397 4.231

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