Hamilton fastest in second practice for Japanese GP

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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.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III