F1 2012 Japanese Grand Prix: Hamilton second fastest in Suzuka practice

Lewis Hamilton still has his eyes fixed on the F1 World Drivers' Championship ahead of the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

Lewis Hamilton still has his eyes fixed on the F1 World Drivers' Championship ahead of the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

HOCH ZWEI

FORMULA One driver Lewis Hamilton was second fastest in free practice for the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka.

2012 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

* Race distance: 53 laps (191.054 miles/307.471km)

* Start time* 15.00 (local)/07:00 BST

* Circuit length: 3.608 miles/5.807km

* 2011 winner: Jenson Button (McLarens) 53 laps in 1hr 30m 53.427s (202.972km/h)

* 2011 pole: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1m30.466s (231.083km/h)

* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-20) 1m 31.540s (228.372km/h)

The 27-year-old Vodafone McLaren Mercedes star from Hertfordshire was second quickest in both sessions in Japan today (Friday).

McLaren colleague Jenson Button topped the P1 timesheets with a lap of 1m 34.507s around the famous figure-of-eight circuit. Hamilton was second quickest in the morning with a 1m 34.740s.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber, however, ended day one in Japan as the fastest man overall.

His lap time of 1m 32.493s was 0.214secs faster than Hamilton’s McLaren MP4-27.

Lewis Hamilton factfile

* Age: 27 (January 7, 1985)

* GPs: 104

* Wins: 20

* Poles: 24

* Fasest Laps: 11

* 2012 points: 142 (4th)

The 2008 F1 world champion, who is quitting McLaren for Mercedes GP next season, clocked 1m 32.707s in P2.

Hamilton said: “I have the coolest job! Suzuka is such a phenomenal circuit.

“The first lap out of the pits felt great. Just driving through the first couple of corners and feeling the acceleration, it takes a few laps to get warmed up, but you keep getting faster and faster as you push the limits.

“But you need to be careful. At Spoon we saw a few people making mistakes today. If you put a wheel on the dirt, it’s very easy to lose the car.”

One of those to do just that was F1 legend Michael Schumacher – the man Hamilton will replace in the Mercedes team for the 2013 campaign.

Button was seventh best in P2 and will also take a five-place grid penalty following qualifying tomorrow for a gearbox change.

He said: “I love Japan. This is a crazy race for me – the fans are fantastic, they’re true supporters of all the drivers, and they get so excited about the sport.

“Also, there’s such a flow about this circuit. It’s important to find the right gear ratios though, because you’re up and down the gearbox all the time.

Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren garage [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren garage [Picture: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]

“I didn’t do too many laps in FP2: the balance wasn’t quite right and we knew we couldn’t go back on the changes we’d made until after the session, so there wasn’t any point doing too much running.”

Hamilton’s team boss Martin Whitmarsh added: “It’s always a thrill to arrive at Suzuka – it’s a mighty motorsport amphitheatre, and a place which showcases Formula 1 at its finest, whether it’s through the graceful, high-speed sector-one Esses, the pincer-sharp Degner apices or the great sweeping arc of Spoon.

“We spent the morning evaluating and experimenting with a handful of useful new components that we wanted to compare.

“For FP2, we were conducting set-up experiments across the garage and we’ll assimilate that data tonight in order to determine the cars’ optimum configuration for qualifying and the race.

“We got some extremely useful data, and that will all filter into the work we do ahead of FP3 tomorrow.”

The 2012 Grand Prix of Japan takes place on Sunday.

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