George Russell and Lewis Hamilton gave Mercedes an encouraging 1-2 in FP2 for the Japanese Grand Prix at soggy Suzuka.
Yet to win this season, Mercedes are without their team principal Toto Wolff who is sitting out this weekend, but they showed they could be contenders to gatecrash the potential World Championship party for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
After a wet FP1 when the timesheet was headed by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, there was no let-up to what looks like proving a mixed weekend in terms of the weather on F1’s return to Japan for the first time since 2019.
Due to the conditions, it was inevitably decided that Pirelli’s 2023 tyre testing during the session would be scrapped, and yet the extra half hour added to FP2 for that purpose remained. They will try again at the United States Grand Prix next time out, with Mexico added as a substitute venue for the test.
— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) October 7, 2022
The additional 30 minutes was of no significance for Mick Schumacher though, the Haas driver unable to take part after a crash at the end of FP1 that required a chassis change.
Nicholas Latifi in the Williams was the first driver to head out for both an out and a push lap, followed by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Latifi, who has lost his Williams seat for next season, had an early spin and Sainz dipped his wheels in the gravel as the circuit remained treacherous.
As the first half hour was completed and the rain began to ease off, Russell in the Mercedes felt brave enough to try the intermediate tyres and as he immediately set comfortably the fastest time, the others swiftly followed suit.
Yuki Tsunoda ran wide and through the gravel having crashed out of the Singapore Grand Prix the previous weekend while Charles Leclerc also had a minor ‘off’ on his out-lap, concerned with how his Ferrari had been handling upon exiting the garage. A brake problem was later identified but Leclerc said the feeling was “still really bad for some reason”.
Russell and team-mate Hamilton were top of the standings by over six tenths of a second from Red Bull duo Verstappen and Sergio Perez as the session entered its last 15 minutes, and that is how it remained after 90 minutes more likely to have provided clues for a potential wet race on Sunday than a likely dry qualifying according to the forecast.
1 George Russell Mercedes 1:41.935
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +0.235
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull +0.851
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull +0.899
5 Kevin Magnussen Haas +1.252
6 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +1.269
7 Fernando Alonso Alpine +1.598
8 Valtteri Bottas Alfa Romeo +1.798
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine +1.949
10 Zhou Guanyu Alfa Romeo +2.590
11 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +2.774
12 Nicholas Latifi Williams +3.027
13 Alexander Albon Williams +3.104
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri +3.322
15 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin +3.326
16 Lando Norris McLaren +3.950
17 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren +4.095
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin +4.841
19 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri +5.174
20 Mick Schumacher Haas No time