Valtteri Bottas Tops First Free Practice at the Japanese Grand Prix

by Sudha Sundararaj

Valtteri Bottas finished on top of the time charts in the first free practice session at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka International Racing Course.

Lewis Hamilton was in second position, 0.076 seconds behind Bottas. Sebastian Vettel was 0.989 seconds behind the Finn in third position.

The two practice sessions on Friday has become very crucial for the teams as the third practice session on Saturday along with the qualification session has been cancelled because of the super typhoon Hagabis set to hit Japan.

The qualification session will now take place at 10:00 am local time and the race at the scheduled time of 2:10 pm in the afternoon on Sunday.

The ninety-minute long free practice session started under clear skies with the air temperature at 26 degrees C and the track temperature at 35 degrees C.

The Pirelli tyre choice at this race is the white-striped hard compound tyres (C1), yellow-striped medium compound tyres (C2), and red-striped soft compound tyres (C3).

Carlos Sainz was the first driver to exit the pit lane when the lights went green and the session started. The Spaniard immediately pulled off the track with a loss of power. The marshals pushed the car uphill and back into the pits and the session resumed.

The Mercedes drivers went out on the medium compound tyres and Bottas set the first timed lap of 1m 31.723s. Hamilton immediately displaced him as both Silver Arrows drivers alternated at the top of the time sheets.

Naoki Yamamoto driving in place of Pierre Gasly for Toro Rosso in his first practice session in Formula 1 took fifth position on his first flying lap.

Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen and Vettel slotted behind the Mercedes drivers in the early part of the session.

Antonio Giovinazzi was hit by reliability issues and was asked to return to the pits by the Alfa Romeo Racing team. Sainz was back on track with an hour to go after the McLaren team sorted out his issues quickly.

The track was busy with all the drivers putting in maximum mileage to make up for the cancellation of the practice session on Saturday.

Bottas had to lock up and abort his flying lap on a new set of medium compound tyres to avoid a slow moving Leclerc on his cool down lap and suffered a flat spot. But the Finn still managed to go faster than team-mate Hamilton and move to the top of the time charts.

The Ferrari drivers put on the soft compound tyres first and Vettel was in first position with a lap time of 1m29.720s, 0.210 seconds ahead of team-mate Leclerc. Verstappen slotted behind them in third position.

With thirty minutes to go, the Mercedes drivers were out on the soft compound tyres for their flying laps. Hamilton went almost a full second faster than Vettel even as his brake drums were on fire and smoking as he started the lap.

Bottas with a lap time of 1m28.731s topped the time charts and was the fastest lap of the session, 0.076 seconds ahead of Hamilton.

The Mercedes driver was 0.989 seconds ahead of third-placed Vettel as the Silver Arrows drivers set the early pace at the Japanese Grand Prix. Leclerc and Verstappen were a further two-hundredths of a second behind Vettel.

Alexander Albon was in sixth position with Sainz in seventh position and “best of the rest”. The two Racing Point drivers, Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll, displayed strong pace and were in eighth and ninth positions respectively.

McLaren’s Lando Norris rounded off the top 10 positions ahead of Romain Grosjean and Kimi Räikkönen. The two Renault drivers, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo, finished in thirteenth and fourteenth positions as the early pecking order emerged at the Japanese Grand Prix.

2019 Japanese Grand Prix First Free Practice (FP1) Results:

177Valtteri BottasMercedes01:28.73126
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes01:28.807+0.076s25
35Sebastian VettelFerrari01:29.720+0.989s26
416Charles LeclercFerrari01:29.912+1.181s20
533Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing Honda01:30.046+1.315s22
623Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing Honda01:30.375+1.644s24
755Carlos SainzMcLaren Renault01:30.702+1.971s21
811Sergio PerezRacing Point BWT Mercedes01:30.810+2.079s21
918Lance StrollRacing Point BWT Mercedes01:30.959+2.228s27
104Lando NorrisMcLaren Renault01:31.001+2.270s24
118Romain GrosjeanHaas Ferrari01:31.283+2.552s25
127Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari01:31.307+2.576s27
1327Nico HulkenbergRenault01:31.426+2.695s29
143Daniel RicciardoRenault01:31.563+2.832s25
1520Kevin MagnussenHaas Ferrari01:31.785+3.054s22
1626Daniil KvyatScuderia Toro Rosso Honda01:31.920+3.189s23
1738Naoki YamamotoScuderia Toro Rosso Honda01:32.018+3.287s30
1863George RussellWilliams Mercedes01:32.800+4.069s23
1988Robert KubicaWilliams Mercedes01:33.484+4.753s27
2099Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing Ferrari01:36.887+8.156s4

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