F1 2014 Japanese Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest at Suzuka
PUBLISHED: 12:03 03 October 2014 | UPDATED: 12:03 03 October 2014
Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton topped the practice timesheets at Suzuka ahead of this weekend's 2014 Japanese Grand Prix qualifying session.
The Japanese Grand Prix weekend at Suzuka kicked off today (Friday) with the Mercedes AMG Petronas pair of Hertfordshire-born Hamilton and Silver Arrows rival Nico Rosberg leading the timesheets in the first two practice sessions.
FIA World Drivers’ Championship leader Hamilton, 29, ended the day at the top of the timesheets, posting a lap of 1m 35.078s in the second practice session, ahead of Rosberg.
The 2008 F1 world champion said: “The gap changes from track to track between us and other cars but it looks pretty good so far this weekend.
“To come here at one of the most demanding tracks for downforce and to be that competitive is fantastic. It’s amazing what this team has done.”
Suzuka – the stats you need
* Race distance: 53 laps (307.471km/191.054 miles)
* Start time: 15:00 (local)/06:00 (GMT)
* Circuit length: 5.807km/3.608 miles
* 2013 winner: Sebastian Vettel
* 2013 pole: Mark Webber
* Lap record: Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren MP4-20) 1m31.540s (228.372km/h)
Looking ahead, Singapore GP winner Hamilton added: “The pace looks good but it’s a track that’s very hard on tyres, especially the rears; one minute you have the one lap pace and one minute you have the long run pace, so it’s a very fine line.
“Qualifying is going to be very important as it’s quite difficult to overtake here.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather this weekend; it’s such a challenging circuit but we always come to the weekend prepared for everything. I just want to race.”
Rosberg had earlier topped the timesheets in this morning’s session with a lap of 1m 35.461s and managed to improve his time in the afternoon to 1m 35.318s.
"All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend."
Williams driver Valtteri Bottas was third fastest in second practice, ahead of McLaren ace Jenson Button and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel.
Rosberg, Hamilton’s main title rival, said: “That was a very, very good day for us. Thank you to the team for this great car, we are very quick on one lap and also on high fuel levels.
“My long run was very good this afternoon, so I’m quite confident for a good race here.”
The German driver added: “There is still a lot of work to do tonight to find the perfect balance for this great old school track.
“It was a real pleasure to drive this fantastic track here today. Also the atmosphere is great, lots of fans are here already and they are very enthusiastic.”
The Mercedes team completed a total of 108 laps on a trouble-free day for both cars, although there were a number of red flags during second practice.
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport head Toto Wolff said: “We ran a standard Friday programme today, although the warm, dry conditions were obviously very different to what is currently forecast for Sunday.
“However, today’s runs showed that we can be satisfied with our pace on one lap and the longer runs.
“So far, we’re on track – but we will continue to work hard to further improve and make sure we are prepared for all possible conditions.”
The Pirelli hard tyre was used by Mercedes during the morning and afternoon, with the medium tyre used for both short and long runs in the second session only.
Mercedes technical director Paddy Lowe added: “Suzuka is a fantastic circuit and a big challenge for both the drivers and the engineers, so it was great to get down to work today and start adjusting the car to the circuit’s characteristics.
“We saw plenty of incidents, which reflects the demanding nature of the track, and we were learning our way with the tyres to begin with.”
Lowe added: “We ran our standard programme, using the prime in P1 and then both tyre types in the second session, but the car balance still needs tuning as both drivers are suffering with some understeer.
“We also lost some time with red flags in the second session, which meant the afternoon was a little slow to get going.
“All credit to the mechanics, who had a busy programme after we took both engines out in the garage between the two sessions and managed to get out in the afternoon on time.
“The weather forecast still suggests tomorrow [Saturday] will be dry but there is obviously some uncertainty for Sunday, depending on how the typhoon turns in the coming hours. We will monitor this closely as the weekend develops.”