F1 2016 Japanese Grand Prix: Hamilton second fastest in Suzuka practice

PUBLISHED: 12:51 07 October 2016 | UPDATED: 10:06 09 October 2016

Lewis Hamilton in Suzuka practice ahead of the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

Lewis Hamilton in Suzuka practice ahead of the 2016 Japanese Grand Prix [Picture: Mercedes-Benz / Daimler AG]

Daimler AG

Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton was second best to Mercedes colleague Nico Rosberg in the first practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s 2016 Japanese Grand Prix.

Rosberg topped the morning session today (Friday) with Hertfordshire-born Hamilton P2, as Silver Arrows set the pace on the opening day in Suzuka.

World championship leader Rosberg then set the fastest time of the day at the Suzuka International Racing Course with a lap of 1m 32.250s in the afternoon session.

Three-time F1 world champ Hamilton was again second fastest, his quickest lap being 1m 32.322s.

Hamilton said: “It’s been a really good day with no problems on the car, which is great.

“We managed to get plenty of laps in but there’s still some work to be done overnight in order to find more pace.

“That’s a work in progress and hopefully we’ll be going into Sunday in good shape.”

Hamilton added: “It’s great to be here in Japan and I’m excited to get out on track again for qualifying tomorrow.”

Both Mercedes drivers ran the hard and the soft compound tyres in the morning session.

Nico ran the medium and the soft tyre in the afternoon, while Lewis ran the hard and the soft tyre.

Rosberg said: “It’s been a case of finding my way today. It began with quite a lot of under-steer and we had to work through the setup in order to find a better balance on the car.

“In the afternoon, the medium tyre didn’t seem as strong as the hard as we saw in Malaysia.

“However, on the soft tyre we showed strong one-lap pace, the balance felt good and the track was really exciting to drive.

“It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris, but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”

Paddy Lowe, the team’s executive technical director, added: “It’s great to be back here at this fantastic circuit with all the amazing and enthusiastic fans at every turn.

“It was nice to get some dry weather which we didn’t get last year, and it allowed us to run through our programme and execute to plan, looking at all three tyres on both single and long-run pace.

“At this stage, our strategy for Sunday still remains wide open and we need to go through all the data overnight in order to start making plans for the race.”

Today was a largely problem-free day for the McLaren-Honda team, as free practice began at Suzuka, the venerated home of Honda and the Japanese Grand Prix.

The team evaluated new components throughout the day.

While Fernando Alonso suffered a minor spin during FP1, and Jenson Button locked up on his Option-tyre flyer, both drivers gathered useful data, which will be duly crunched this evening ahead of tomorrow’s important qualifying session.

Alonso, who was eighth on the FP2 timesheets, said: “It’s been a tough day, generally.

“Our most important objective for this afternoon was to understand the compounds across the length of a long-run, and we did that.

“Nonetheless, we’re not yet happy with the set-up and we need to do some more work this evening.”

The Spaniard added: “We’re still investigating the cause of this morning’s spin – it looks like there were some aerodynamic issues with the rear wing.

“Luckily, we didn’t damage the car and could continue running until the end of FP1.

“We need to find something extra tonight – let’s just hope it doesn’t rain in FP3 tomorrow as we need to understand the changes we make tonight ahead of qualifying and the race.

“Getting into Q3 could be quite difficult now.”

Button was 13th and 16th respectively in today’s two practice sessions at the famous Suzuka circuit.

He said: “On single-lap pace, the car doesn’t actually look too bad – I just didn’t get a great lap this afternoon.

“But if we can get a good lap together – which we’ll hopefully do tomorrow – we may be able to get into the top 10.

“However, our long-run pace is more of an issue – and that’s something we need to solve as it’s usually a forte of mine, and it wasn’t today.

“The degradation is significant, we’re some way off, and we’re looking into the reasons why.

“I think there’s something not quite right, as opposed to there being a set-up issue; but hopefully we can fix it by tomorrow.

“I’d love it to rain – that would help us have a chance of a good result here.”

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