Michael Schumacher showed some of his old skill at Suzuka today, outpacing teammate Nico Rosberg in both practice sessions, something he has struggled to do so far this season.
The seven-time world champion was eighth fastest in both sessions, completing 47 laps of the 5.807km Japanese circuit over the course of the day.
“It’s a great feeling to be driving this track again,” says Schumacher. “It’s really fun and a great challenge. I have always loved Suzuka and particularly the first sector which is cool and demanding at the same time. If you get it right, you enjoy it big time. I’m pleased with our practice today as the car looks better than I had expected here and I didn’t face any real issues. So now we hope for a clean qualifying tomorrow where we will try to achieve as much as we can.”
Rosberg managed only 35 laps as he faced technical problems and set-up issues. However, the young German knows that the forecast rain tomorrow could help him to a higher grid position.
“It’s been quite a challenging Friday for me,” he said. “Unfortunately my morning was hampered by a gearbox issue which cost me some running time at the end of the session which wasn’t ideal. From then on, I just haven’t been as happy with the car here. I had a lot of understeer which we haven’t established the reason for, so we need to look into that overnight. Things started to come together more on the option tyre which gives me hope that we can build on that progress tomorrow. It should be an interesting weekend with the rain so we will try to make the best of that.”
Ross Brawn, the Mercedes team principal, says that today’s dry practice sessions were valuable for collecting data, and that the team would be working hard overnight to improve the car set-ups.
“It’s been an interesting Friday as we have worked to learn as much as possible from the dry track before the expected rain arrives this evening,” Brawn said. “Michael had a positive day with the car running well to allow him to get used to the track again and develop his set-up. Nico had a few challenges with a gearbox issue interrupting his programme this morning and a few concerns with the balance this afternoon. We have a lot of information to work with so we expect to make progress overnight. It could be an interesting qualifying if the rain comes so we’ll need to be on our toes.”