On a dull and damp Friday at Suzuka Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was the fastest man in the afternoon practice session, his best time of 1:34.337 in improved conditions 11 seconds quicker than Honda third driver Anthony Davidson in the morning.
On a dull and damp Friday at Suzuka Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was the fastest man in the afternoon practice session, his best time of 1:34.337 in improved conditions 11 seconds quicker than Honda third driver Anthony Davidson in the morning. Ferrari's Felipe Massa was second fastest in the afternoon, less than a tenth off Fisichella, and teammate Michael Schumacher was third.
The temperatures had risen very little from the earlier session and were in the low twenties and the track was once again officially declared wet due to the morning rain. Super Aguri No.3 Franck Montagny was first out, followed by third drivers Michael Ammermuller (Red Bull), Sebastian Vettel (BMW Sauber), and Alex Wurz (Williams). Takuma Sato's Super Aguri was also quickly out.
Honda, Toro Rosso and Spyker MF1 third drivers Davidson, Neel Jani and Adrian Sutil followed suit, along with the Spyker MF1 of Tiago Monteiro. Montagny set the first time, 1:50.286 but was quickly outdone by Ammermuller and Vettel in succession, 1:47.779 for the latter. Wurz and Davidson took their turns, Davidson coming out on top with a 1:46.330.
Sutil took third and Jani fourth then Ammermuller came back to take the fourth spot. The Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher put in an appearance, while Davidson lowered his time to 1:45.347. Ammermuller improved to second and Vettel to third but he was demoted by Sutil working his way back up. Trulli posted second on his first flyer, nine tenths off Davidson.
Sato took seventh and Ralf went straight to the top, 1:44.418, but was immediately ousted by Davidson's 1:43.881. Red Bull's Robert Doornbos arrived in sixth and Ralf went back to the top with a 1:43.516. Davidson was within four tenths but the rest were a second and more off the pace. Monteiro started with 11th then climbed to fifth.
Jani went up to fourth after being shuffled down the list and Massa was the first Ferrari on track to take third. Trulli removed Jani from the fourth spot and Super Aguri's Sakon Yamamoto was next to make his way onto the circuit, followed by the Toro Rossos of Tonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed. Davidson posted fastest sectors all round to go top again, 1:42.382 for 1.1 up on Ralf.
Ammermuller went back up to third while Liuzzi and Speed took 12th and 13th respectively. Trulli, who had been moved down in the changing order, improved to the third slot and Vettel did likewise to fifth. Ralf closed the gap to Davidson to half a tenth and Nico Rosberg's Williams started with ninth. Vettel was still on the move, up another one to fourth, and Red Bull's David Coulthard appeared after half an hour.
Fisichella also made his way out on track and Vettel was then up to third. Fisichella clocked fastest sectors in one and two to post 1:42.064, three tenths up on Davidson. Michael's Ferrari and the Hondas of Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button headed out for a lap or two, Barrichello taking fourth on his first flyer. Davidson once more returned to the top, 1:40.986.
Yamamoto climbed from the back to 14th and Vettel was still up and down the times, now back to third again. Ammermuller shot up from the edge of the top 10 to head the list, 1:40.304 for seven tenths up on Davidson, then improved again to 1:39.373. Sutil bought out the yellow flags briefly with what looked like an engine failure in the middle sector.
In the last 10 minutes Speed jumped up to fourth and Michael finally set a time, 1:37.774 for the top. There was a flurry of activity, Montagny hurtling up to second and Liuzzi to third then Vettel went fastest 1:37.411. Davidson was next, 1:37.365, then Michael again, 1:35.599. The times were changing rapidly as everyone tried for a good lap in the improved conditions.
Coulthard posted 12th but lost it to Button and Kimi Raikkonen put his McLaren second, six tenths off Michael. Wurz improved to third and the second McLaren of Pedro de la Rosa took 11th. Button moved up to fifth and BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld started with 16th. Massa, who had been shuffled way down the times, went up to the fifth spot and Ralf did likewise to fourth.
Mark Webber's Williams clocked seventh and Fisichella went back to the top 1:34.337. Rosberg improved to fifth and Button to second then Fernando Alonso slotted in behind teammate Fisichella, half a second off. BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica moved from towards the back to 13th and Spyker MF1's Christijan Albers went one better for 12th. Massa took the second position, less than a tenth off Fisichella.
At the end Fsichella remained fastest, with Alonso bumped down to fourth by Michael. Unsurprisingly it was Renault and Ferrari to the fore but it wasn't by a huge margin; the top eight were within a second and Trulli, Raikkonen, Ralf and Amermuller only just outside that time zone. Toyota was the strongest Bridgestone team after the Ferraris.
"The conditions meant we didn't do many laps today, but I think we are in good shape," said Fisichella. "The car felt good to drive on the intermediate tyres, and while we had a bit too much understeer on dry tyres at the end, the times were still competitive. It was a good feeling to be quickest on the track each time I ran today, so I am feeling very confident for the rest of the weekend."
Massa was happy enough with his day. "I'd say the data we have seen looks quite promising," he commented. "I am reasonably happy with the balance of the car and the behaviour of the Bridgestone tyres in these conditions. All this means I reckon we can be competitive in both qualifying and the race."
Michael is confident for qualifying. "The car and the Bridgestone tyres seem to be behaving well and there were no problems of any sort. The team is in very good spirits, concentrating on our work and everything seems to be going well. As for qualifying, I think we will be fighting Renault for the top places on the grid."
There were no real surprises despite the wet weather and difficult track conditions. McLaren and Honda were milling around behind Renault and Ferrari, with Toyota and Williams not far down, while the BMW Sauber racers seemed a bit off the pace but only did a few laps. Final top eight classification: Fisichella, Massa, M. Schumacher, Alonso, Davidson, Vettel, Button, de la Rosa.