After being forced to settle for second place during the first free practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday morning, Lewis Hamilton has hit back during FP2 by beating teammate Nico Rosberg to finish as the fastest driver at Suzuka.
The F1 world championship leader is looking to add his name to the list of drivers that have won at the legendary Suzuka Circuit this weekend, with it being one of the few classic tracks he has not been victorious at.
Having finishing in second place behind Rosberg in FP1, Hamilton redressed the balance in the second session, posting a fastest lap time of 1:35.078 to finish two-tenths of a second clear of his teammate and championship rival. Once again, Mercedes was in a class of its own, finishing the session over one second ahead of the rest of the field.
The fight to be the ‘best of the rest’ in FP2 was eventually won by Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, who finished third with Jenson Button coming home in fourth place.
Four-time Suzuka winner Sebastian Vettel ran well to finish fifth in the final classification, but teammate Daniel Ricciardo was less fortunate. A mistake at the final corner during the first 30 minutes of the session saw him go straight on and into the wall, bringing out yellow flags. Thankfully, the Australian was unharmed, even if the local yellows had to be replaced with reds when his car was not moved to a safe place following the crash.
This was the second crash of note during practice, with home favorite Kamui Kobayashi being the first to finish in the wall. After stepping aside for Roberto Merhi in FP1, Kobayashi’s session didn’t last long as he spun off at the esses, leaving the beleaguered Caterham squad with yet more work to do.
Esteban Gutierrez was another driver to see his session come to an early end after he went off at Spoon, damaging the front of his Sauber, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne’s came to a halt out on track after the Toro Rosso mechanics had worked to fix his car following Max Verstappen’s engine issue during FP1. Although he did manage to get back out later in the session, it ground to a halt once again with three minutes remaining in the session, bringing out the red flags.
The big conclusion to draw from FP2 – if the session was needed to prove it – is that Mercedes is the leading force once again at Suzuka. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are set to enjoy a close battle at the front of the field on Sunday, and it could go down as one of the classic Suzuka tussles – relying it doesn’t end like Prost and Senna, of course.