Ferrari once again started great in Japan after posting incredible pace in Malaysia last time out. Vettel finished P1 just two-tenths of a second ahead of rival Lewis Hamilton on supersoft tyres as drivers got in the mood for the Suzuka circuit.
Hamilton finishing 0.211s behind shows great improvement from Sepang where Mercedes struggled for pace. Valterie Bottas’ struggles continued in P1 at Suzuka finishing almost a second behind Vettel while Malaysia GP winner Max Verstappen finished 1.5s behind as his Red Bull suffered charging issues.
Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne where 12th and 10th respectively in what is to be Honda’s final home race as McLaren’s engine partners.
Heavy downpour just before the second practice started led to drivers pulling out of the session with 14 drivers driving out of the sodden pits for installation laps but only 5 drivers were able to post times at the end.
Lewis Hamilton – who definitely loves the rains – took P2 on full wet tyres ahead of Esteban Ocon (2nd) and Sergio Perez (3rd) both of Force India while Brazilian Felipe Massa (4th) and Lance Stroll (5th) completed the list of those who finished Practice 2. Hamilton was the only driver of the three major teams – Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari – to post a time in the P2 session.
Kimi Raikonnen, when asked what was learnt so far from Practice today said “We didn’t even try to learn anything”.
Mercedes would be extremely delighted with the pace the W08 is showing in Japan after recent struggles they look like they stand a real chance to top Ferrari for pace.
The rains could also cause havoc for the teams this weekend as more showers are expected during Saturday’s final practice session. Qualifying and the main race on Sunday are expected to be dry.
It’s make or mar for Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari as a win for Hamilton might all but ensure that the title stays with the Silver Arrows while a double podium finish for Red Bull puts Ferrari’s place on the constructor’s championship in serious jeopardy.
The Japanese GP get underway in Suzuka 6am on Sunday.