As he seeks his fourth Japanese Grand Prix win and potentially, a fourth straight Formula One World Championship, Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets once again in Friday’s second 90-minute free practice.
Vettel is the first driver this weekend to dip into the 1:33 range at the 3.6-mile Suzuka Circuit, a 1:33.852 with 55 minutes remaining and on Pirelli’s medium (alternate) tires.
Mark Webber was next in the second Red Bull Renault, in a new chassis (1:34.020), ahead of Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and the pair of Lotus Renaults, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) completed the top 10. All from Webber to Button were in the 1:34 range.
With the fast laps done early most of the rest of the session was spent in full race runs on both the hards and mediums; lap times generally were in the 1:39 to 1:40 range.
Raikkonen’s session ended early when with more than half an hour left, he lost control at the tail end of the Esses. His Lotus snapped at Dunlop and beached itself in the gravel. Fortuitously for the Finn, he was near the back of the paddock entrance, which made for a short walk back to the team garage.
While Raikkonen’s off was one part of the session, it wasn’t the biggest moment. Sergio Perez lost control at Spoon 17 minutes into the session, when his right side wheels got onto the painted surface on driver’s right at corner entry to the left-hander. His McLaren snapped and he smacked the tire barrier at an almighty rate. Perez was a bit dazed and had to take a few minutes to collect himself before getting out of the car under his own power.
Alonso had a spin at the entrance to Degner 1, with no damage, while Pastor Maldonado had an incident at Degner 2 when he ran wide and slid through the gravel, into the tire barrier. After his lost wheel in FP1, it was a lost day for the Williams driver.
Webber also had a moment when he came upon Paul di Resta’s slowing Force India, again through Degner, and allegedly cursed out the Force Indias over the radio.
Charles Pic resumed in the Caterham after missing FP1 and led teammate Giedo van der Garde and Marussia’s Max Chilton at the back of the field. The usual 22 cars were down one this session with Jules Bianchi out after crashing in FP1.