Japanese Grand Prix: Friday round-up

By on Friday, October 5, 2012

At a track that features such tricky corners as the Esses, Degner and 130R, it was Spoon curve that caught out a number of drivers on Friday.

Paul di Resta crashed only six minutes into the second practice session when he dipped a wheel onto the grass on entry to the corner, spearing into the barrier and damaging his Force India. Later on in the session, Michael Schumacher's final Japanese Grand Prix Friday ended in almost identical fashion. Both drivers were physically uninjured, if a little sheepish.

Up front, Mark Webber's lap time of 1:32. 493 was a couple of tenths faster than Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Nico Hulkenberg once again impressed by setting the fourth fastest time, ahead of championship leader Fernando Alonso and Lotus racer Romain Grosjean.

Grosjean's team mate, Kimi Raikkonen, had a frustrating afternoon as his KERS battery overheated and began leaking, forcing his Lotus team to take lengthy precautions in order to prevent any mechanics suffering an electric shock.

Jenson Button, who will drop five places on the grid after McLaren was forced to change his gearbox, was fastest in morning practice but dropped to seventh once the times improved. Bruno Senna showed good form by ending the day in eighth place, despite handing his car over to Valtteri Bottas in the morning. The former GP3 champion had never driven at Suzuka before, but after a sole ninety minute session was already firm in his belief that it's his favourite circuit!

Felipe Massa was close behind his compatriot, although the Brazilian had a couple of hairy moments as he attempted to improve his lap time. Mercedes were tenth and eleventh, with Schumacher narrowly ahead of Nico Rosberg. The younger of the two Germans stopped on track at the end of first practice, although Ross Brawn later confirmed that the expired engine in the back of the W03 was nearing the end of its shelf life.

The Sauber duo of Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi finished outside of the top ten but both expressed belief that the C31 can challenge further up the grid in qualifying.

Giedo van der Garde returned to an F1 cockpit for the first time since the Chinese Grand Prix in April and finished in 23rd place. Team-mate Vitaly Petrov ended second practice in the gravel at Turn 1 after his rear wing failed shortly after the chequered flag was flown

Back at the front, all signs point towards a fight for victory between Red Bull and McLaren. The reigning champions won at Suzuka in 2009 and 2010, while Jenson Button claimed the victory last season as Vettel eased to a second straight championship. Qualifying between these teams should be close.

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