Close qualifying battle in prospect at Suzuka

2012 Japanese Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Suzuka, 2012Sebastian Vettel took pole position by less than a hundredth of a second for last year’s Japanese Grand Prix.

He expects another tense contest for pole position at Suzuka on Saturday: “I think tomorrow will be very, very close, so everything we can get out of the car will matter,” he said.

Red Bull were quickest of all in Friday practice but McLaren aren’t far behind on single-lap pace. Expect an exciting the battle for pole position between these two teams.

Fernando Alonso believes that, though his Ferrari may lack outright pace, he can manage his tyre temperatures well, which should stand him in good stead for the race.

Here’s the data from Friday practice.

Longest stint comparison – second session

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint:

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/2012drivercolours.csv

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
Sebastian Vettel 99.186 98.992 99.231 101.087 99.767 101.567 99.997 99.861 99.998 99.752 106.899
Mark Webber 100.541 100.169 100.022 100.182 100.379 101.884 100.405
Jenson Button 93.349 108.334 93.368 104.67 95.874
Lewis Hamilton 100.52 100.034 104.765 99.55 108.599 100.708 102.661 99.82 99.696 101.115 99.769 100.574 100.414 133.908
Fernando Alonso 100.975 101.667 100.849 114.3
Felipe Massa 99.448 99.584 100.474 99.933 100.002 121.565
Michael Schumacher 93.75 115.361 94.194
Nico Rosberg 101.409 100.948 100.869 100.87 106.857 101.176 135.319
Kimi Raikkonen 99.881 94.291 98.527 96.307 118.04
Romain Grosjean 99.417 99.408 99.387 99.365 99.432 99.778 99.693 100.299 99.894 100.316
Paul di Resta
Nico Hulkenberg 101.347 101.758 100.813 100.529 100.413 105.762
Kamui Kobayashi 100.44 100.193 100.266 100.419 99.972 100.089 103.549 106.493 101.486 100.343 100.631 100.719
Sergio Perez 95.202 94.974 104.994 99.337 94.486
Daniel Ricciardo 102.831 102.656 102.126 101.893 101.695 101.695 107.726 103.075 101.735 101.652 101.38
Jean-Eric Vergne 102.37 101.547 101.353 101.22 101.498 107.817 101.24 101.497 103.049 101.533 101.592
Pastor Maldonado 96.039 107.737 95.381 111.062 95.388 107.387 95.438
Bruno Senna 102.351 103.218 103.882 100.057 100.43 101.955 100.874 100.556 100.123 125.34
Heikki Kovalainen 101.263 101.451 101.151 101.074 101.208 101.653 101.908 107.075 102.555 102.871 101.467 102.107 105.511 103.228 103.321 104.417 146.716
Vitaly Petrov 103.218 102.572 108.284 105.958 102.588 103.765 104.265 104.132 104.735 103.318
Pedro de la Rosa 102.778 103.055 102.565 110.251 106.953 102.202 102.157 104.689 105.677 104.157 103.248 115.572
Narain Karthikeyan 102.807 102.424 102.343 102.104 102.332 102.857 103.2 103.702 107.708 104.287 102.757 107.712
Timo Glock 107.657 102.919 103.645 102.85 103.12 103.489 103.316 110.311 103.421 103.341 107.176 104.112 103.83 104.391 129.549
Charles Pic 101.298 98.303 98.286

There’s not much to choose between McLaren and Red Bull on their long stints. Lewis Hamilton began his stint lapping slightly slower than Vettel, but was more than able to match the times the RB8 was setting later on.

Alonso was not too concerned about his car race stint pace: “Overall, the feeling is good and I don?t think the high temperatures can constitute a problem for the tyres.”

“We have done a lot of races in hot conditions, and not that long ago either, given that Singapore was only a fortnight ago and just like we did there, we will have to learn to manage them, which indeed will be the case for everyone.”

Last year three pit stops were the way to go for most drivers. This year Pirelli have swapped the medium/soft tyre mix for hard and soft, and expect there will be fewer pit stops as a result.

Motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “This year we?re more likely to see two stops, depending also on outside factors such as safety cars and weather conditions. We?ve got a lot of data to look at now, but we would expect the performance gap between the two compounds to be in the region of 1.0-1.2 seconds.”

Sector times and ultimate lap times – second session

Car Driver Car Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3 Ultimate lap Gap Deficit to best
1 2 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 33.096 (1) 41.342 (1) 18.055 (8) 1’32.493 0.000
2 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 33.179 (2) 41.501 (2) 18.027 (7) 1’32.707 0.214 0.000
3 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 33.378 (5) 41.512 (3) 17.946 (4) 1’32.836 0.343 0.000
4 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 33.444 (7) 41.567 (4) 17.931 (2) 1’32.942 0.449 0.045
5 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 33.332 (4) 41.639 (5) 18.103 (9) 1’33.074 0.581 0.033
6 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 33.316 (3) 41.827 (8) 17.950 (5) 1’33.093 0.600 0.000
7 3 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 33.458 (9) 41.804 (6) 18.017 (6) 1’33.279 0.786 0.070
8 19 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 33.445 (8) 42.097 (12) 17.928 (1) 1’33.470 0.977 0.029
9 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari 33.491 (10) 41.957 (10) 18.166 (12) 1’33.614 1.121 0.000
10 15 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 33.410 (6) 42.094 (11) 18.168 (13) 1’33.672 1.179 0.231
11 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 33.729 (15) 41.809 (7) 18.140 (10) 1’33.678 1.185 0.188
12 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 33.501 (11) 42.314 (14) 17.932 (3) 1’33.747 1.254 0.003
13 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 33.551 (12) 42.194 (13) 18.238 (15) 1’33.983 1.490 0.000
14 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 33.657 (14) 41.947 (9) 18.590 (20) 1’34.194 1.701 0.097
15 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 33.563 (13) 42.465 (16) 18.272 (16) 1’34.300 1.807 0.000
16 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 34.236 (17) 42.463 (15) 18.164 (11) 1’34.863 2.370 0.000
17 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 34.199 (16) 42.661 (18) 18.199 (14) 1’35.059 2.566 0.021
18 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 34.503 (20) 42.777 (19) 18.415 (17) 1’35.695 3.202 0.016
19 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 34.570 (21) 42.609 (17) 18.607 (21) 1’35.786 3.293 0.084
20 24 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 34.453 (19) 43.044 (20) 18.487 (18) 1’35.984 3.491 0.210
21 25 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 34.720 (22) 43.263 (21) 18.578 (19) 1’36.561 4.068 0.075
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 34.968 (23) 43.676 (23) 18.698 (22) 1’37.342 4.849 0.000
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 35.344 (24) 43.461 (22) 18.785 (23) 1’37.590 5.097 0.111
24 11 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 34.281 (18) 45.993 (24) 19.416 (24) 1’39.690 7.197

Hamilton’s lap was slightly untidy and he expects to find more from the car: “I feel comfortable with our car ?ǣ it?s the best that it?s ever been around here ?ǣ and I think I could have matched Mark?s [Webber] fastest time with an optimal lap.”

Jenson Button, McLaren, Suzuka, 2012However his team mate limited his running in the second session having been quickest in the first: “The balance wasn?t quite right,” Jenson Button explained, “and we knew we couldn?t go back on the changes we?d made until after the session, so there wasn?t any point doing too much running.”

Half of the Suzuka track has been resurfaced since last year’s race and the steady improvement in track conditions seemed to have an effect during the second practice session. When drivers began their qualifying-style runs on soft tyres they generally went faster the later they left the pits.

Romain Grosjean was one of the earlier driver to do his lap and later found room for improvement that showed he was capable of beating Alonso: “It?s hard to say if [sixth] is the kind of position we?ll be in qualifying,” he said. “There are definitely still a few tenths we can find so let?s see what happens tomorrow.”

Fourth-placed Nico Hulkenberg is happy with Force India’s one-lap pace and is focused on making gains elsewhere. “I?m quite happy with the car on low fuel, but I think we still have some work to do to improve our high fuel performance,” he said.

Sauber were not as quick as expected but Sergio Perez believes they have potential to do better this weekend than their Friday pace indicated: “We have to improve our speed and I think we can do this,” he explained. “I also ran wide on my fastest lap, so I know there is more to come and we will be in a better shape tomorrow.”

Complete practice times

Pos Driver Car FP1 FP2 Total laps
1 Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 1’34.856 1’32.493 58
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1’34.740 1’32.707 58
3 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1’36.366 1’32.836 60
4 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes 1’35.474 1’32.987 52
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1’35.484 1’33.093 54
6 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1’35.724 1’33.107 56
7 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1’34.507 1’33.349 42
8 Bruno Senna Williams-Renault 1’33.499 32
9 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1’35.283 1’33.614 56
10 Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1’35.122 1’33.750 33
11 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1’35.059 1’33.866 37
12 Sergio Perez Sauber-Ferrari 1’35.584 1’33.903 60
13 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1’35.199 1’33.983 60
14 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus-Renault 1’35.691 1’34.291 34
15 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1’35.478 1’34.300 57
16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’36.123 1’34.863 51
17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1’36.222 1’35.080 59
18 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1’35.299 20
19 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham-Renault 1’35.711 41
20 Vitaly Petrov Caterham-Renault 1’38.295 1’35.870 60
21 Timo Glock Marussia-Cosworth 1’37.716 1’36.194 49
22 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1’36.389 24
23 Charles Pic Marussia-Cosworth 1’38.616 1’36.636 53
24 Pedro de la Rosa HRT-Cosworth 1’39.688 1’37.342 49
25 Narain Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth 1’39.043 1’37.701 60
26 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1’39.374 22

Ferrari technical director Pat Fry is unsure how close they will be to their rivals: “Honestly, it?s hard to say where we are compared to our main competitors, both in terms of where we might be in qualifying and as far as our race pace is concerned.”

Mercedes made a substantial set-up change to Schumacher’s car which cost him time at the start of the second session.

Giedo van der Garde made his second appearance in a practice session for Caterham. He will drive again during the same session in Korea next week, taking over Vitaly Petrov’s car.

Speed trap

# Driver Car Engine Max speed (kph) Gap
1 7 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Mercedes 312.5
2 3 Jenson Button McLaren Mercedes 311.4 1.1
3 16 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso Ferrari 309.3 3.2
4 5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Ferrari 309.2 3.3
5 4 Lewis Hamilton McLaren Mercedes 308.3 4.2
6 10 Romain Grosjean Lotus Renault 307.6 4.9
7 24 Timo Glock Marussia Cosworth 307.3 5.2
8 1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Renault 307.3 5.2
9 15 Sergio Perez Sauber Ferrari 307.2 5.3
10 8 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Mercedes 306.6 5.9
11 2 Mark Webber Red Bull Renault 305.8 6.7
12 9 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus Renault 305.6 6.9
13 6 Felipe Massa Ferrari Ferrari 305.2 7.3
14 12 Nico Hulkenberg Force India Mercedes 305 7.5
15 19 Bruno Senna Williams Renault 304.6 7.9
16 17 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso Ferrari 304.4 8.1
17 18 Pastor Maldonado Williams Renault 304.4 8.1
18 21 Vitaly Petrov Caterham Renault 303.4 9.1
19 14 Kamui Kobayashi Sauber Ferrari 303.3 9.2
20 25 Charles Pic Marussia Cosworth 301.9 10.6
21 20 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham Renault 301.2 11.3
22 22 Pedro de la Rosa HRT Cosworth 297.5 15
23 23 Narain Karthikeyan HRT Cosworth 293.4 19.1
24 11 Paul di Resta Force India Mercedes 269.5 43

Timo Glock was seventh-quickest through the speed trap but he is concerned about his car’s acceleration: “We are a little further behind our competitors because of the KERS effect. I had the chance to follow some cars but when they deploy the KERS it has such a big effect here in Japan.”

2012 Japanese Grand Prix

Browse all 2012 Japanese Grand Prix articles

Images ?? Red Bull/Getty images, McLaren/Hoch Zwei

Advert | Go Ad-free

23 comments on Close qualifying battle in prospect at Suzuka

  1. TED BELL said on 5th October 2012, 14:42

    Go Pedro, your chance is finally here

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 5th October 2012, 14:50

    Hm, what to make of Webber saying that he thought Hamilton had been playing mind games (with fuel levels) and is really faster. On the one hand we had only the top 7 within one second, on the other hand, Kimi never got a good lap in, and the evolution of the track makes it hard to compare.
    I think Vettel has a good chance of pole, because he seems to have the right feel of when to do that lap to make the most of that evolution, even without doing so by switching on the more extreme engine mapping / exhaust blowing.

    • About Kimi, he had some KERS problems causing him to retire prematurely. The KERS unit have given shocks in the past and that is what Kimi never wanted to experience( well who would??). Overall, thanks @Keith once again for the data. Interesting to see the sector times in particular sector-3..where the top 3 drivers were driving mediocre cars!

    • Ogurka said on 5th October 2012, 16:03

      Hamilton’s remark was made in an interview with Croft before the start of FP1, When Crofty said Lewis was in the fastest car, Hamilton said no the Red Bull is the fastest car, McLaren is second.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 5th October 2012, 17:23

      @bascb Webber said Hamilton was playing mind games by saying “Red Bull is the quickest car” – not by running heavy fuel.

  3. It’d be great for the championship if it were to finish something like:
    1. Hamilton
    2. Raikkonen
    3. Vettel
    Below 5th – Alonso.

    I can’t see the Lotus being that fast this weekend, but it’d be great simply from the perspective of wanting a close fight at the top. Ferrari don’t look particularly quick.

  4. Todfod (@todfod) said on 5th October 2012, 15:14

    “The balance wasn’t quite right,” Jenson Button explained

    I’ve heard that statement atleast a few hundred times… and it still cracks me up.

    • Eddie (@wackyracer) said on 5th October 2012, 15:33

      lol, same here, balance, balance, balance, even if u have problems with it dont stop saying the same thing

    • Eggry (@eggry) said on 5th October 2012, 16:12

      massive massive understeer/oversteer, it’s undriveable, grip’s nowhere, etc…typical Button radio messages.

      • JJLehtOo said on 5th October 2012, 20:34

        Can anyone recall Button saying anything positive on a radio message without realising first that he’s slow. I.e

        JB “The balance is great guys, the car feels so planted and quick”

        Mclaren operator: “Ok Jenson you are currently P10, Lewis is P1. More time to be found in all sections”

        JB: “uuuhhhh”

        Lol

      • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th October 2012, 11:08

        @eggry We would almost turn it into a game, guess what he’s going to complain about next!

  5. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 5th October 2012, 15:39

    Very consistent long run from Grosjean, though perhaps they run the car a little bit lighter than their direct competitors. Also Vettel and Hamilton’s long runs look good. It looks like the Lotus is capable of mixing it at the front again this race, especially if Grosjean can put in another good qualifying performance.

    • Picasso 1.9D FTW (@picasso-19d-ftw) said on 5th October 2012, 16:25

      I agree that Grosjean run really leaps out for its consistency (and length). Also Heikki’s run gave the impression that out of the tail-enders Caterham may be ahead again, relative to Marussia. But perhaps that’s just him.

  6. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 5th October 2012, 15:50

    Good session from Bruno Senna also, and interesting that he set the fastest time in the final sector. The question is whether he can do it again tomorrow. I think we’ve seen a couple of times this year that he’s had a good FP2, but then wasn’t able to follow that up with a good qualifying (does he even have a good qualifying besides Hungary?). Perhaps it’s just that he drives as fast as he can on Friday, and that whatever sandbags other drivers manage to extract from their cars between FP2 and Q3 are not available to him.

  7. Eggry (@eggry) said on 5th October 2012, 16:00

    Speed trap speed is usually comparable between team mate. It’s usually not more than 2~3mph but the gap between Mercedes duo and Ferrari duo is interesting. Is that mean Alonso and Schumacher opted for lower downforce setup than their team mate?

    • KaIIe (@kaiie) said on 5th October 2012, 20:47

      Could be different setup. Also, as the speed trap is right after the apex of 130R, DRS (I think) plays an important role; with slightly less fuel and slightly better tires, you can open it much earlier.

      And the highest top speeds are measured at the second intermediate right before 130R.

  8. Grosjean’s long run is not bad at all, I didn’t notice it this morning. Lotus can easily be in the top 5 on sunday, judging from the times.
    While Hulkenberg or Di Resta could mix a little bit the grid tomorrow.

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.