Mercedes AMG PETRONAS driver Nico Rosberg topped the times in the second practice session of the weekend ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, and was just seven hundredths of a second quicker than team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
The German set a time of 1:32.250 to take the top spot on a set of the soft tyres midway through the session, and looks to have a slight edge on the Brit having gone fastest in FP1 early this morning as well. There was a worrying moment when a large plume of smoke was seen to pour from the back of Rosberg’s W07 when completing a practice start, but he carried on for the rest of the session without any issues. Mercedes are unsure what the smoke was caused by and are currently investigating.
Kimi Raikkonen finished the FP2 session in third and the fastest of the Scuderia Ferrari drivers despite reporting a number of issues over team radio. The Finn complained of understeer, stating it “feels like we’re missing the front wing”, before running onto the grass at the hairpin. He also reported that he was suffering from misfires, prompting Ferrari to bring him into the pits to investigate, reducing his time pout on track.
Max Verstappen was the first of the Red Bull Racing drivers in fourth, but eight tenths of a second down on the lead time set by Mercedes. The Dutchman was hampered on his qualifying simulation run however and in the end completed a quick lap on a worn set of tyres. He also reported at one point that the left front tyre was losing a lot of rubber after just five laps on the softs, a common problem for a number of drivers during this session.
Verstappen was just four hundredths of a second ahead of Sebastian Vettel in the second Ferrari, who had a relatively quiet session by the German’s standards, but it was clear there was very little splitting the Red Bull and Ferrari so far this weekend.
Sahara Force India driver Sergio Perez was sixth, ahead of team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, the pair consistently finishing inside the top ten every weekend now.
It was another strong session for McLaren-Honda F1 team driver Fernando Alonso, who had his exhaust replaced ahead of FP2, after the team found a crack in it following a shunt into the barrier during FP1 this morning. The Spaniard finished the session in eighth place.
Valtteri Bottas was ninth for the Williams Martini Racing, and nearly two seconds off the pace of the lead Mercedes time, and Carlos Sainz Jnr completed the top ten for Scuderia Toro Rosso. The Spaniard was a tenth off the pace of the lead Williams, and ahead of the second, with Felipe Massa down in eleventh place.
Daniel Ricciardo was way down the order in twelfth, but a poorly timed virtual safety car following the stoppage of Esteban Gutierrez on the side of the track, ruined the Australian’s qualifying simulation run on the soft tyre. He did not get a second shot at a quick lap like his team-mate, as Red Bull then fuelled him up to complete log runs for the remainder of the session. We can definitely expect more from Ricciardo across the rest of the weekend.
Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean was back out in FP2 after having his car repaired in between sessions following an off at the second Degner in FP1, and continued to struggle with the set-up in the Haas, and had to continually fight the VF16 around every part of the circuit, with brakes a real problem for the Frenchman. He finished the session in thirteenth place.
Daniil Kvyat was fourteenth, after some dicey moments at the start of the session, when he ran wide at the final corner, just touching his wheels on the grass, which sent him into a spin and what was a great save from the Russian to keep it out of the barriers.
Kevin Magnussen was fifteenth for the Renault Sport F1 Team, and also had a ropy start to the session when he went deep into spoon carrying too much speed, and slid into the gravel. It was a low-speed incident and the Dane was able to keep on going without hitting the barrier.
Jenson Button finished in a lowly sixteenth place, but was having big problems with the MP4-31 throughout the FP2 session. The Brit complained of problems with braking and grip levels and being unable to push anymore despite being half a second down on the lap time of his team-mate.
Gutierrez was left down in seventeenth place, after experiencing technical problems with his turbo with just under an hour of the session gone. The Mexican had to stop the Haas on the side of the track just before the Degner curves, after reporting over team radio that something was broken. That incident activated the virtual safety car for a number of laps.
Renault Sport F1 Team driver Jolyon Palmer was eighteenth fastest, but considering the Brit got barely any running in FP1 this morning after experiencing electrical problems, he was always going to be playing catch up in FP2.
Sauber F1 Team driver Felipe Nasr, was two tenths further back in nineteenth place, but reported issues with understeer on a number of occasions before pointing out to the team that “Manor were very quick on the straights”.
Speaking of the Banbury based squad, Manor Racing Team driver Pascal Wehrlein was next up in twentieth place, just ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon, with Marcus Ericsson bringing up the rear, after reporting that he was struggling to get temperatures into his front tyres for most of the session.
Mercedes once again look strong at the head of the field, but Ferrari and Red Bull were not far off their pace, with the Milton Keynes based squad also once again looking good over long run pace. All to play for as we head into qualifying tomorrow.
Suzuka International Racing Course Free Practice 2 Results
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