Nico Rosberg topped the times in both free practices, with Lewis Hamilton behind him, while Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo failed to register a quick lap after being halted by VSC because of Esteban Gutierrez.
Nico Rosberg: “It’s been a case of finding my way today. It began with quite a lot of under-steer and we had to work through the setup in order to find a better balance on the car. In the afternoon, the medium tyre didn’t seem as strong as the hard as we saw in Malaysia. However, on the soft tyre we showed strong one-lap pace, the balance felt good and the track was really exciting to drive. It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”
Lewis Hamilton: “It’s been a really good day with no problems on the car which is great. We managed to get plenty of laps in but there’s still some work to be done overnight in order to find more pace. That’s a work in progress and hopefully we’ll be going into Sunday in good shape. It’s great to be here in Japan and I’m excited to get out on track again for qualifying tomorrow.”
Kimi Raikkonen: “It was one of those days that seem a bit tricky but in the end go for better. My feeling with the car was not very nice, I suffered a lot with understeer and I was struggling with the balance through the first sector, but the lap time was ok. In the end we got a bit better, but we are not still where we want to be. In the second session I had a small electric issue, likely with a sensor, but we changed it and it was ok. Tomorrow is another day, we’ll try to work on small things to try to improve. If we get the car where we want and with a better feeling for sure we can go quite a bit faster.”
Sebastian Vettel: “Overall, l I am not entirely happy with the balance of the car today, but I am sure this is something we can work on. I didn’t try the medium compound, we focused more on the soft tyre in the morning, and on the very hard tyre in the afternoon. We tried to do our homework, but the balance is not there yet. We will now need to look at the data and see where we are, also compared to the others. Ideally you would always love to have more grip around here, because it feels fantastic if you do, but I am sure we can tune the balance and distribute the grip a bit better, so that we will be in a better shape tomorrow. As for race expectations, a podium finish is always possible, there might even be rain at some point. It sure doesn’t help if you start further at the back (because of the grid penalty), but overtaking is possible, even if it is not so easy.”
Max Verstappen: “I think this has been one of the strongest Fridays so far. Everything seemed to work quite well, car set-up was good and we looked quick on both tyres today, even on the Hard. We were hampered by the Virtual Safety Car on our short runs so the tyres lost a bit of temperature, this meant we didn’t show our full potential. After Malaysia we are looking for another good result, this track should suit us and we are close to the top guys at the moment. Ferrari are in the mix, short runs look ok but I’m not sure how their long ones are going, I’m hoping we can handle them though. There are talks of rain for later in the weekend which for us I think will play into our hands, we can’t be sure but if it comes I think we can be even stronger in qualifying and the race.”
Daniel Ricciardo: “It’s good to be back at this circuit, I really like this place. We had a pretty good day today and a positive afternoon. We made some improvements from this morning and the lap we had to abort because of the Virtual Safety Car looked to be in the 32s which was close to Kimi’s time. Our long run pace towards the end of FP2 on the hard tyre looked pretty solid as well. If we can hook the car up for quali, we can be close to Mercedes and probably be ahead of the Ferraris, we can definitely squeeze a bit more out of the car tomorrow. There have been improvements from our side and the Ferraris so we expect the rest of the season to be tighter. If it rains for quali, it won’t hurt us and we might even be able to get on the front row. I’m ready either way, this place is fun in both wet and dry conditions.”