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Bottas sets opening pace at Suzuka

NEWS STORY
11/10/2019

Ahead of today's opening practice session, the air temperature is 24.7 degrees C, while the track temperature is 30 degrees.

While tomorrow's running is likely to be abandoned, or at least seriously reduced, due to Typhoon Hagibis, today should see more action than usual, especially as conditions on Sunday are expected to be similar to those of today. That said, while today is somewhat overcast, we are expecting it to be sunny come race day.

While the media focusses on the intra-team shenanigans at Ferrari, Mercedes has brought its first upgrade for some time, Valtteri Bottas hoping that it will represent a "decent step" forward.

As previously reported, Super Formula and Super GT champion, Naoki Yamamoto is driving Pierre Gasly's Toro Rosso today, the only 'reserve' driver on duty.

As the lights go green, the FIA confirms that there will be no track activity tomorrow.

"As a result of the predicted impact of Typhoon Hagibis on the 2019 FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, Mobilityland and the Japanese Automobile Federation (JAF) have decided to cancel all activities scheduled to take place on Saturday, 12 October," reads the official release. "The FIA and Formula 1 support this decision in the interests of safety for the spectators, competitors, and everyone at the Suzuka Circuit."

There won't be any track activity for Sainz this morning either, as his McLaren grinds to a halt shortly after leaving the pits.

"Suddenly something failed," reports the Spaniard, "something, I don't know."

The VSC is deployed.

The VSC is withdrawn soon after, and the Mercedes pair waste no time in getting their scores on the board - the first drivers to do so - Hamilton posting 1:31.723 and Bottas 31.881.

Just ten minutes in, and despite Sainz' issue, everyone has completed at least one installation lap.

Kvyat's car is sporting some significant aero rakes, the Honda-powered teams looking to perform well this weekend at the Japanese manufacturer's home track.

Norris goes third with a 33.449 and Giovinazzi fourth (36.887).

As Giovinazzi appears to have a hydraulics issue, the Italian warned not to change gear, Yamamoto goes firth with a 38.515.

Hamilton improves to 30.832 and Bottas 30.918 as Grosjean posts 32.880 to go fourth. The Frenchman is on softs, while all the times posted thus far have been on mediums.

Leclerc is the first of the Ferrari drivers to head out (again), as Albon goes third with a 32.209.

Yamamoto, a man who knows this track like the back of his hand, gives detailed feedback to the team as completes his eighth lap. Improving to 34.050 he remains tenth.

Ricciardo runs wide in Turn 1. "I don't know what happened," he reports, "I just lost all the front."

Verstappen goes third with a 31.051, just ahead of Leclerc, whose first timed lap is a 31.654. Vettel goes fifth with a 31.748. All three are on the softs.

Thirty minutes in and all but Sainz have posted times.

Magnussen told he can try "Func 2".

As Sainz heads out, his issue seemingly resolved, replay shows Leclerc lucky not to go off after attacking the kerb at Degner 1 very aggressively.

A scary moment at Spoon, as Bottas, on a hot lap, finds his progress blocked by a very slow Leclerc and locks-ups heavily as the slows the Mercedes.

Sainz goes 12th with a 32.328, like the Mercedes pair and his McLaren teammate, he is on the mediums. As are Raikkonen and Yamamoto.

Despite his close encounter with Leclerc, and the toll taken on his tyres, Bottas goes quickest with a 30.524. Hamilton also improves (30.705) but remains second.

At 'half-time', it's: Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Vettel, Albon, Norris, Perez, Stroll and Grosjean.

In the Alfa garage, Giovinazzi's car is up on its stand and not looking to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Interestingly, the weather radar shows rain closing in for the end of this session and possibly FP2, which would compromise preparations for Sunday.

Sainz improves to fifth with a 31.110 on the mediums.

On fresh softs, Vettel goes quickest with a 29.720, as countryman Hulkenberg goes ninth with a 31.426.

Leclerc goes second with a 29.912.

Oh dear, Haas team boss, Guenther Steiner has been summoned by the stewards following the comments he made over the team radio at the end of the Russian Grand Prix. This refers to the comments the Italian made in reference to the time penalty handed to Kevin Magnussen.

Quickest in the final sector, Perez goes sixth overall with a 30.810.

With just under half-an-hour remaining, the Mercedes pair switch to softs.

Verstappen goes third with a 30.046, but is subsequently demoted when Hamilton bangs in a 28.807, going 0.913s clear of second-placed Vettel.

Slo-mo replay shows flames leaping from the front brakes on Hamilton's car as the Briton braked for the chicane.

Bottas goes quickest in S1, maintaining the pace in S2, he posts a PB in the final sector, crossing the line at 28.731 to go top.

Verstappen is quickest through the speed-trap (186.9 mph), ahead of Stroll, Albon, Perez, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. The Mercedes pair not in the top ten.

With 18 minutes remaining, Yamamoto has completed the most laps (23), with Hulkenberg on 22, Raikkonen 20 and Kubica 19. Giovinazzi has completed just 4 laps.

Currently 8th and 9th, the Racing Points are the first to try the hards, clearly looking ahead to Sunday.

"It felt draggy," reports Sainz, despite going seventh (30.702) without even a hint of a tow.

A late improvement from Raikkonen, who goes 11th with a 31.307. After a number of disappointing outings since the break, the Finn needs a good result here this weekend.

A 31.001 sees Norris go tenth, as teammate Sainz reports "quite a lot of deg at the rear".

"Something's not right with the rear," reports Hamilton.

As Williams switch their (one) new front wing between the two drivers, it is sprayed with flo-vis leaving the dayglow green paint on the pitlane surface outside the garage.

The session ends. Bottas is quickest, ahead of , amilton, Vettel, Leclerc, Verstappen, Albon, Sainz, Perez, Stroll and Norris.

Grosjean is eleventh, ahead of Raikkonen, Hulkenberg, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Kvyat, Yamamoto, Russell, Kubica and Giovinazzi.

Check out our Friday gallery from Suzuka, here.

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