Red Bull dominate first two sectors but Ferrari’s pace is unknown (FP1 analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Red Bull are pulling out an advantage of half a second over their rivals in the first two sectors of the lap at Suzuka.

But while Lewis Hamilton showed promising pace before his crash, Ferrari’s performance around Suzuka is surely better than 11th and 13th in first practice suggested.

Meanwhile Suzuka specialist Sutil flattered his Force India with the fourth-fastest time.

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With heavy rain expected tomorrow the teams got in as much running as they could during first practice on a dry track.

But McLaren missed out on a quarter of the running available to them as Hamilton crashed halfway through the session.

He had just set the fastest time in the first sector of the lap up to that point and had been lapping at a similar pace to Sebastian Vettel. Although McLaren will be frustrated at the loss of track time, they may draw some encouragement from that. Apparently their new rear wing is working as well.

Both MP4-25s ran their new rear wing with revised F-duct. It seems Jenson Button was on a different programme to Hamilton, and had not beaten his team mate’s time by the end of the session.

Indeed Hamilton ended the session fifth despite missing half of it, which indicates the performance drop-off on the hard tyres was quite high. That should improve as more rubber goes down on the track this weekend.

Ferrari also seem to have been keeping their powder dry with neither car finishing in the top ten. Expect that to change in the next session.

Adrian Sutil, whose qualifying performance here last year marked him out as a Suzuka specialist, strung his three best sectors together in one lap to put his Force India fourth.

The ultimate times list shows the Mercedes and Williams are faster. However Sutil was slightly delayed by a hydraulic problem, so there’s probably more to come from the VJM03.

As expected, the Red Bulls are strongest in the first sector, where no other car is within 0.3s of them. Both drivers were also top in sector two, with a slightly smaller advantage.

For the moment at least, their rivals aren’t able to claw much of that back in the final sector with its long straights. Mark Webber was quicker through the speed trap than both the McLarens.

According to Mike Gascoyne, Lotus tried a lower downforce set-up on Heikki Kovalainen’s car but decided it was “not the way to go”.

Given Kovalainen ended the session quicker than his team mate it seems this was tried in his first stint, when he was slower, as you can see in the interactive data above.

The next session should provide some clues as to whether Red Bull’s rivals can reduce their advantage – and just how quick those Ferraris are.

Car Driver Car Best lap Gap Lap At time Laps
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’32.585 14 71 23
2 6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’32.633 0.048 14 63 23
3 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1’33.129 0.544 14 72 23
4 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’33.639 1.054 9 42 13
5 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’33.643 1.058 6 67 8
6 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’33.677 1.092 14 35 21
7 10 Nico H???lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’33.707 1.122 16 91 24
8 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’33.739 1.154 9 70 20
9 22 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’33.791 1.206 10 64 23
10 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’33.831 1.246 8 91 9
11 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’33.929 1.344 15 41 25
12 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’34.042 1.457 12 70 19
13 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’34.169 1.584 12 76 23
14 23 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’34.271 1.686 4 56 19
15 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’34.373 1.788 13 66 24
16 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’34.379 1.794 12 70 21
17 16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’34.991 2.406 24 62 26
18 17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’35.684 3.099 19 70 22
19 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’36.949 4.364 15 55 25
20 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’37.329 4.744 10 66 17
21 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’37.388 4.803 6 66 23
22 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1’37.778 5.193 15 68 23
23 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’38.814 6.229 19 69 28
24 20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1’39.443 6.858 17 75 26

Ultimate laps

An ultimate lap is a driver’s best time in each of the three sectors that make up a lap added together.

Car Driver Car Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’32.536 0.049
2 6 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’32.583 0.047 0.050
3 11 Robert Kubica Renault 1’32.800 0.264 0.329
4 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’33.379 0.843 0.264
5 4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’33.614 1.078 0.217
6 3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’33.628 1.092 0.111
7 9 Rubens Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1’33.638 1.102 0.039
8 14 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1’33.639 1.103 0.000
9 10 Nico H???lkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1’33.675 1.139 0.032
10 22 Nick Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1’33.738 1.202 0.053
11 7 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’33.809 1.273 0.120
12 1 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’34.024 1.488 0.018
13 8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’34.169 1.633 0.000
14 23 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’34.194 1.658 0.077
15 15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1’34.330 1.794 0.049
16 12 Vitaly Petrov Renault 1’34.373 1.837 0.000
17 16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’34.933 2.397 0.058
18 17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’35.416 2.880 0.268
19 19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1’36.909 4.373 0.040
20 18 Jarno Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1’37.140 4.604 0.248
21 24 Timo Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1’37.299 4.763 0.030
22 25 Jerome d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1’37.609 5.073 0.169
23 21 Bruno Senna HRT-Cosworth 1’38.662 6.126 0.152
24 20 Sakon Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth 1’39.155 6.619 0.288

2010 Japanese Grand Prix

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Image ?? Force India F1 Team