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What we learned from Friday at the Japanese Grand Prix

What we learned from Friday at the Japanese Grand Prix



What we learned from Friday at the Japanese Grand Prix

What we learned from Friday at the Japanese Grand Prix

Friday practice at the Japanese Grand Prix took on extra significance, as Saturday's action was cancelled due to concerns over the approaching Typhoon Hagibis.

Suzuka will be left barren on Saturday, when a storm is expected to batter large parts of Japan.

If possible, qualifying will be held on Sunday morning, with the grand prix to follow later in the day. The starting order may well have already been set, however, if conditions are not suitable for qualifying.

Mercedes were quickest in both sessions, Valtteri Bottas leading Lewis Hamilton each time, giving Ferrari and Red Bull plenty to chew over with a full day to do nothing but analyse.

Flying Finn on form

Bottas pipped Hamilton in each practice session, showing impressive powers of recovery to do so in FP2.

The Finn spun on his initial outlap at the start of the session, also hampering Hamilton's efforts behind him.

However, both recovered well to close to within around half a second of the outright lap record - Hamilton's pole time of 1:27.319 in 2017.

Hamilton has form behind him, having secured victory at Suzuka in four of the last five years as Mercedes have dominated at the circuit in the V6 Hybrid era.

And the Brit had the measure of the field in race trim on Friday, eking similar lap time to Bottas on soft tyres over a stint twice as long as his team-mate.

What's happened to Ferrari?

Charles Leclerc has taken the last four pole positions at a differing variety of tracks, suggesting they may have been strong again here.

But that did not play out, with Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel a second off the Silver Arrows in FP1, with the gap only narrowing to four tenths by the end of FP2.

Ferrari looked to gain places on the timesheets late in FP2, with it potentially setting the race order, but traffic affected them and Leclerc was still four tenths off Bottas, with Vettel two tenths further off.

Splitting the silver and red cars on the FP2 order was Max Verstappen, furnished with new fuel and the raft of upgrades Honda have brought to recent races.

Securing a memorable home win looks a stretch for the Dutchman right now, but Honda's pointless run on home turf should be coming to an end this weekend.

Yamamoto gives team bosses food for thought

Suzuka was treated to a Japanese driver taking part in an F1 session for the first time in almost five years as Naoki Yamamoto took over Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso in FP1.

The Super Formula champion was just a tenth off Daniil Kvyat in matching machinery and was certainly not holding back across Suzuka's mighty changes of direction.

He might not "fit the criteria" that Christian Horner is looking for, but he certainly hinted he could be a handy F1 performer.

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