Japanese GP: Sensational Sainz masters wet conditions at Suzuka

Rookie Carlos Sainz Jr topped an official Formula 1 session with Toro Rosso for the first time in his short career in the opening free practice session at Suzuka.

On a wet track Sainz, the son of two-time World Rally Champion of the same name, picked his moment perfectly on intermediate tyres to record a 1m49.434s. He then immediately complained of “more aquaplaning” as the rain intensified once more.

Story of the session

With a soaked track, not much happened for the first part of the session apart from installation laps.

Max Verstappen was the first to show after 53 minutes, recording a 1m51.741s on wet tyres, with Toro Rosso teammate Sainz exactly 2s slower on his first lap.

Verstappen worked down to a 1m51.640s, with Sainz doing likewise to a 1m52.201s. Then Sainz improved to 1m51.369s, before switching to inters.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel went P2 on wets, before Nico Rosberg hit the top spot on 1m51.077s – also using full wets.

There was then a brief window in the weather to allow cars to chance their luck on intermediate tyres. Braveheart Verstappen was first, recording a 1m50.940s, with Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat then laying down an impressive P1 time of 1m49.938s on his very first lap on inters.

But Sainz timed his run to perfection, beating him to the top spot with 1m49.434s, before complaining of “more aquaplaning” as the rain fell harder.

Kvyat stayed second, over half a second in arrears, ahead of Rosberg, Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen fell to sixth, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa (Williams), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) and Valtteri Bottas (Williams).

Only 12 cars recorded times, despite a healthy turnout from a huge crowd the other eight cars couldn't be bothered to complete a flying timed lap.

Plenty of scary moments

Bottas, on inters, suffered a big moment exiting Turn 2 as he splashed through a river, while Verstappen overshot at Spoon and rejoined. Massa also did well to stay out of the wall after a huge moment.

Vettel had a massive twitch on the high-speed kink approaching Spoon, while Nasr just stayed out of the gravel in the Spoon corner itself, and Sauber teammate Ericsson followed suit near the end of the session and explored the 103R run-off too.

Raikkonen had a big moment at Turn 1 on wets at the end, but everyone kept their cars out of the barriers.

Results: 2015 Japanese GP FP1

PosDriverCarTimeGapLaps
Carlos Sainz Jr.  Toro Rosso STR10  1:49.434    10 
Daniil Kvyat  Red Bull RB11  1:49.938  +0.504 
Nico Rosberg  Mercedes F1 W06 1:50.077  +0.643  14 
Sebastian Vettel  Ferrari SF15-T  1:50.519  +1.085  12 
Lewis Hamilton  Mercedes F1 W06 1:50.722  +1.288 
Max Verstappen  Toro Rosso STR10  1:50.940  +1.506  10 
Kimi Raikkonen  Ferrari SF15-T  1:51.212  +1.778  15 
Felipe Massa  Williams FW37  1:52.288  +2.854  12 
Marcus Ericsson  Sauber C34  1:53.820  +4.386  12 
10  Valtteri Bottas  Williams FW37  1:53.964  +4.530  14 
11  Felipe Nasr  Sauber C34  1:54.013  +4.579 
12  Jenson Button  McLaren MP4-30  1:55.678  +6.244 
13  Daniel Ricciardo  Red Bull RB11     
14  Nico Hulkenberg  Force India VJM08     
15  Sergio Perez  Force India VJM08     
16  Fernando Alonso  McLaren MP4-30     
17  Pastor Maldonado Lotus E23     
18  Jolyon Palmer  Lotus E23    
19  Will Stevens  Marussia MR03B     
20  Alexander Rossi  Marussia MR03B     

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Japanese GP
Track Suzuka
Drivers Carlos Sainz Jr.
Article type Practice report