True to form this season in the early stages of a Formula One race weekend, it was the Red Bull drivers who led the way in practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull Racing. Photo by xpb.cc. Sebastian...
True to form this season in the early stages of a Formula One race weekend, it was the Red Bull drivers who led the way in practice ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.
Sebastian Vettel pipped his teammate Mark Webber to take the top spot, with the only close competition coming from Robert Kubica in his Renault. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso followed behind the Polishman in fourth place.
Vettel seemed pleased with the outcome of today's practice, especially with his pace and setting a final lap time of 1:31.465s. He remains positive about his chances for qualifying tomorrow.
"We had a trouble free Friday, which is the most important thing, especially on a track like this where you need to get into a rhythm with all the quick corners following each other. The car was reliable and I had a good feeling, the pace looks okay too. The forecast suggests rain, but there's no reason why we shouldn't be competitive in the wet. The conditions have been quite inconsistent during all the wet races that we've had so far this year, so it's hard to know what everyone's pace will be."
Current third-place man in contention for the Drivers' title, Lewis Hamilton, continued his unlucky run and crashed out, halfway through first practice in the McLaren. Hamilton went off the circuit, which sent him into a tyre barrier and knocked a wheel off his car.
The 2008 World Champion did not improve in second practice either, and he ended the session way down in thirteenth position. Hamilton took to the track late on, with just eight minutes to set a time on the board until it came to a close.
It seemed that McLaren experienced practice in two halves, with Jenson Button having a positive result in sixth, and Hamilton not being quite so lucky, unlike the Renault team as both drivers impressed with their performance. Vitaly Petrov also made it into the top ten like his team mate, and landed himself in seventh position.
Although they kept themselves slightly away from the front of the field in first practice, the Ferrari drivers emerged in the second session, to keep Vettel and Webber on their toes. Of the two in the Italian team, it was Alonso who grabbed the higher position, and was ahead of Vettel at one stage, but finished in fourth place, ahead of his Brazilian team mate, Felipe Massa.
Other drivers who made a promising start and managed a top ten finish, include seven-time World Champion, Michael Schumacher, who completed practice in eighth position, which saw him outperforming his fellow countryman and Mercedes team mate, Nico Rosberg, who got eleventh place, just behind the Williams of Nico Hulkenberg.
The Force India drivers had a mixed practice session, as Adrian Sutil put himself into the top ten, taking ninth place in the line up, and accompanying the other German drivers in the field. His Italian team mate, Vitantonio Liuzzi, completed the day's session, quite far down the pack in eighteenth place.
Rubens Barrichello, suffered with problems beyond his control. Unfortunately, he could not show his best, as engine problems meant that he did not have the opportunity to take to the track, for as long as he would have liked to. As a result of the technical difficulties he faced, the Williams driver had to settle for a fourteenth place finish.
The Brazilian did get ahead of Nick Heidfeld, who will be in Pedro De La Rosa's Sauber seat for the second race in a row. The Japanese driver, Kamui Kobayashi had a good start, to his home race in the sister Sauber, as he took twelfth position and got in front of his current team mate.
The Toro Rosso drivers came behind Heidfeld, with Sebastian Buemi ahead in sixteenth place, even though he took the scenic route at one stage, through the S curves and into the gravel. His Spanish team mate, Jaime Alguersuari was alongside him in seventeenth position.
At the very back of the field the competition between the new teams is still ongoing. All three teams managed to close off the last rows of the grid, but it was Lotus who ended today's session leading their rivals. Heikki Kovalainen got in front of his Italian team mate, Jarno Trulli, though, to take nineteenth place.
The Virgin Racing team came next, with Lucas Di Grassi ahead of team mate, Timo Glock, who followed behind in twenty-second position.
Finally, the Hispania Racing cars finished practice at the very back, with Bruno Senna leading team mate, Sakon Yamamoto, who ended up in twenty-fourth position, as he returns for his home race, after suffering from food poisoning during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.
When qualifying gets up and running tomorrow, it seems that Red Bull drivers, Vettel and Webber are favourite for the front row of the grid. With the Renault drivers nearby and competition from Ferrari's Alonso and Massa, or even McLaren's Jenson Button, any one of them could grab the top spot for the race. The possible change in weather conditions during the session, could also make it a very exciting fight for pole position.