Valtteri Bottas was the man to beat in Friday’s second practice for the Japanese GP, putting his W10 on provisional pole as that session could decide the grid.
With Typhoon Hagibis on course to hit Japan on Saturday, qualifying at the Suzuka circuit has been postponed to Sunday morning.
But with forecasts divided as to whether the rain will still be bucketing down at 10am, the FIA announced prior to FP2 that Friday’s second session will determine the grid if the cars aren’t able to take to the track.
Formula 1: Revised schedule at Suzuka
Formula 1 announced on Friday morning that the Japanese Automobile Federation had decided to cancel all Saturday’s sessions at the Suzuka circuit in light of Typhoon Hagibis.
But while third practice has been completely removed, qualifying will instead take place on Sunday morning, 10am local time.
Adding to that, the FIA then confirmed that should heavy rain persist through to Sunday morning and qualifying is cancelled, the grid for the Japanese Grand Prix will be determined by the timesheet from Friday’s second practice.
The season’s most important P1
That upped the ante ahead of FP2, which Mercedes – running their potentially their final big update for this season – went into confident of their form having claimed a dominant 1-2 earlier in the day.
Bottas was quickest in the opening practice session, clocking a 1:28.731 to beat his team-mate Lewis Hamilton by 0.076s.
Third-placed Sebastian Vettel was a massive 0.989s off the Finn’s pace.
Having to do everything from race to qualifying simulations on Friday, the teams took the fuel out of the cars in FP2 and it went down to pure pace.
Bottas made a mistake and spun on his opening hot lap in his qualy sim, half a second slower than Hamilton, but came back with a 1:27.785 on his second attempt.
The reigning World Champion tried to fight back but finished 0.1s off the pace.
“It was a very positive day,” Bottas told Motorsportweek.com
“We tried the new bits with the car we had for this weekend. I’m glad the weather stayed good, we got plenty of running and used obviously some tyres from Saturday as well.
“So good running, it felt good since the beginning. Pretty happy with the car in general. Just some minor things with the balance to treat, but the short and long runs, at least today, felt good.
“[We] still need to remember it’s only practice. I do still feel the gains we made with the car, so that’s always a very nice feeling.
“We can push the car even further than before. I think we need to focus on ourselves, but yeah, Sunday is still going to be close with qualy and the race.”
Rivals knocking on the door
The competition was much closer than in FP1 with Max Verstappen 0.281s down while Charles Leclerc led the Ferrari charge, a further 0.07s off the pace.
Although Verstappen was happier with his performance in the afternoon, he told his official website that Red Bull have a lot of work to do to catch Mercedes.
“The first practice session wasn’t good, but we’ve really made some steps in FP2.
“It’s looking good, but Mercedes are very quick, so we still have work to do. But we recovered well.”
Carlos Sainz was ‘best of the rest’ for McLaren ahead of Sergio Perez in the Racing Point.
FP2 timesValtteri Bottas Mercedes 1m27.785s 33 lapsLewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m27.885s +0.100s 34 lapsMax Verstappen Red Bull/Honda 1m28.066s +0.281s 24 lapsCharles Leclerc Ferrari 1m28.141s +0.356s 28 lapsSebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m28.376s +0.591s 37 lapsAlexander Albon Red Bull/Honda 1m28.402s +0.617s 34 lapsCarlos Sainz Jr. McLaren/Renault 1m29.051s +1.266s 29 lapsSergio Perez Racing Point/Mercedes 1m29.299s +1.514s 28 lapsPierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda 1m29.354s +1.569s 34 lapsLando Norris McLaren/Renault 1m29.358s +1.573s 35 lapsKimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1m29.477s +1.692s 29 lapsDaniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Honda 1m29.512s +1.727s 35 lapsRomain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 1m29.553s +1.768s 28 lapsLance Stroll Racing Point/Mercedes 1m29.597s +1.812s 27 lapsAntonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo/Ferrari 1m29.651s +1.866s 33 lapsKevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari 1m29.749s +1.964s 31 lapsDaniel Ricciardo Renault 1m29.859s +2.074s 30 lapsNico Hulkenberg Renault 1m30.334s +2.549s 29 lapsRobert Kubica Williams/Mercedes 1m30.916s +3.131s 35 lapsGeorge Russell Williams/Mercedes 1m31.071s +3.286s 36 lapsHelp support journalists, the guardians of independent journalism, through our student media initiative that gives a voice to students and their generation! Find out more…Tags: Formula 1Japanmercedes